News flash: Congresswoman has spine

August 28, 2011


I am pleased to report the sighting of an artifact so rarely seen among Democrats that it has become the stuff of legend and conjecture, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. It is called a spine.

Said spine was briefly glimpsed a little over a week ago at a “jobs summit” in Inglewood, Calif., in the person of Rep. Maxine Waters. “I’m not afraid of anybody,” the California Democrat said. “... And as far as I’m concerned, the ‘tea party’ can go straight to hell.”

Her words left the Tea Party Patriots sputtering about the need to play nice. “The president and all leaders of the Democratic Party, who have called for civility in the past, are neglecting to censure their own,” the group said, according to The Washington Post. “Is civility only required from their opponents?” Which is funnier than a Bill Cosby monologue, coming from the folks who turned town hall meetings into verbal brawls and threw rocks through windows because they opposed health-care reform.

I intend no blanket lionization here of Rep. Waters, who is the object of a protracted ethics probe and whom I have for years privately dubbed “Mad Max,” in both consternation and admiration of her feistiness. Moreover, as hypocritical and self-serving as the Tea Party Patriots’ statement is, it is also correct: telling people to go to hell is about as uncivil as it gets. I could never, in ordinary times, applaud such conduct.

But no one will ever mistake these for ordinary times.

These are, rather, times in which the nation’s civic dialogue, the ordinary political business of give and take, has been made hostage to the whims of a loud, incoherent minority that has used its very extremism as a weapon. Seventy percent of us, according to a Gallup poll, think both tax increases and spending cuts ought to be used to reduce the budget deficit. That reasonable, balanced approach was not a part of the debt ceiling deal because the tea party threatened, credibly, to push the nation into default rather than allow it.

Republicans have been shamefully complaisant toward this behavior, unable to produce a stateswoman — or man — willing to stand up for the simple idea that one should put national welfare above ideological purity.

Democrats have been their usual hapless, communicatively-challenged selves, the congressional equivalent of the kid in school who walks around all day with “Kick Me” taped to his back, then wonders why people keep kicking him.

The need of a viable third party has seldom been more apparent. What is lost here, though, is not simply points for a given party but, rather, our very ability to compromise, which is, after all, the soul of politics. Nor, obviously, will Waters’ intemperate remark do anything to bring that ability back.

But it does acknowledge a reality President Obama refuses to accept: compromise requires a partner. When the other party’s bottom line is that you fail, when that is the opponent’s prime directive, the most important item on their agenda, then you lack both that partner and any basis for negotiation.

To put that another way: after you have reasoned with the bully, bargained with the bully, tried to appease the bully, sometimes the only remaining option is to punch the bully in the nose.

That’s what Maxine Waters just did. Good for her.

Leonard Pitts Jr., winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a columnist for the Miami Herald. His email address is lpitts@miamiherald.com


Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 8 months ago

Pitts and Waters are both biggots, no wonder he is supporting her.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 8 months ago

Maxine Waters represents one of the most extreme left districts in the country. Not surprisingly, it's also one of the most dysfunctional. Extremism, left and right, share that trait.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 8 months ago

Love "Mad Max" and Leonard Pitts! Time for Obama to kick some butt and call them out.

Kookamooka 6 years, 8 months ago

I want all Democrats in congress to start putting their hands on their hips, standing firmly, looking the Republicans in the eye and say "go to hell". Republican's have been bullying our country since the GW Bush admin. Does anyone remember how good it was before those stupid tax cuts and his ridiculous war? Unemployment was down and there was a surplus...that's right....a surplus in our budget! Wake up AMerica!

Has anyone noticed that the only president getting the War DONE is Obama. He took out Osama Bin Laden and most of the high Al Kaida leadership. (They just nailed no. 2 in Lybia today) they took out Kadafi. The list goes on.

I could give a flying &(#(%& about ideological purity, gay marriage or abortion. Those issues don't affect anyone but the person engaging. Christian conservatives need to trust their GOD to sort them out. They don't have to do it for God.

I care about people having enough to eat, good medical care and educations. Republican's are ripping this country to shreds. They need to be stopped. Democrats! Call their bluffs and get back in their faces. Use your fists if you have to but call them out. They'll run away. I guarantee.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 8 months ago

Kookamooka says: "I want all Democrats in congress to start putting their hands on their hips, standing firmly, looking the Republicans in the eye and say 'go to hell.'"

Your memory must be short. They already did that. It's called Obamacare.

Jimo 6 years, 8 months ago

This from the nut who said: "The notion that the Bush administration is responsible for the state of our economy when Obama took over is the biggest lie promulgated by the Hard Left in my lifetime."

cato_the_elder 6 years, 8 months ago

And this from the Marxist who said, "The only feudalism we have in America is the concentration of the nation's wealth in the hands of a few."

You're a committed Marxist, Jimo. Your credibility is zero. Go back to reading your dog-eared copy of The Little Red Book.

Jimo 6 years, 8 months ago

Me, Reagan and the Founding Fathers - Marxists all.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

Lenny and Maxine have to keep the base fired up or the current resident of 1600 Penn Ave will be out of a job come January 2013. The usual suspects on this award-winning website are chiming in right on cue.

jhawkinsf 6 years, 8 months ago

Oh come on, Gandalf. My comment was squarely on the fence.

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

"Maxine Waters represents one of the most extreme left districts in the country. Not surprisingly, it's also one of the most dysfunctional."

If that is a comment on the fence, I'd hate to see what is right of that fence.

They were a poor district when they were represented by Republicans and they are a poor district now. Just because working class families live there doesn't make it disfuntional.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

In my estimation 99.99% of the repub party has gone straight to hell = dead party because it lacks republicans.

STOP electing RINO’s ! My My father in law left the RINO party because he is a fiscal conservative republican with at least 50 years under his belt. Evermore stunning he is working with the democrat party in Pennsylvania.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 8 months ago

The idea is to somehow create new economic growth. Tax/budget cuts and unemployment pay will never do that long term say like forever.

Let's think a combination of cuts and revenue generators. Jobs are revenue generators.

  1. Establish a major 4 year job program. USA industry does not want to employ americans. Therefore government MUST step up to the plate.

  2. I want my tax dollars putting people to work making money and creating new economic growth. This is a best bang for the tax buck. Put people to work rehabilitating federal highways and older sidewalks throughout the nation. And yes cleaner energy.

  3. Social Security Insurance adds nothing to the debt and seniors are paying for Medicare Insurance. Leave these successful programs alone.

  4. Stop the wars, cut all pork barrel subsidies/earmarks and terminate Bush Tax Cuts.

What is missing? A budget that would have save $4 trillion.

Neither Tea Party neoconservative republicans nor democrats stepped up to the plate

Kookamooka 6 years, 8 months ago

Not quite. Obama outed and killed Osama Bin Laden. That is, in and of itself, an Epic Triumph.

Crazy_Larry 6 years, 8 months ago

Healthcare reform! A great achievement as well. It may not be perfect, but it's got the "reform" ball rolling. Something had to be done. No doubt there's more to do in the healthcare arena. In the richest country in the world citizens shouldn't suffer because they can't afford treatment and they shouldn't go bankrupt because of illness. IMHO.

tbaker 6 years, 8 months ago

Name calling is the last refuge of people who have ran out of ideas and have come to the realization they are losing the argument. Bluster all you want Maxine. You and your ilk are trying to bankrupt the country and the voters are going to put a halt to it. Spending borrowed money and growing the federal government has failed to fix our economy and the people know it.

kansanbygrace 6 years, 8 months ago

The teapartiers like yourself would have a drop of credibility if they'd (you'd) managed to say anything about the metastatic multiplication of federal government begun by CheneyBush in 2002 and continuing uninterrupted. The diversion of the income flow, deregulating financial industries, wars of convenience, have also had a completely unsurprising, devastating effect. To blame Obama for the situation is in is only acceptable if the person doing the blaming was in a coma while it was forged and has had no curiosity nor access to reportage of the conduct of affairs through 2002-2008. Not to say the current president and current congressional majorities have done anything to improve the situation...no free ride today. Yeah, teapartiers, you were too silent when the ball was made and rolled to have much to say now that the pins are flying. And who owes Grover Norquist and his bunch of never-had-a-productive-jobs ANYTHING? The office holders work for all of us, not just the silver-spooners.

tbaker 6 years, 8 months ago

You not only assume too much Kansasn, you prove my point. The free ride will be over in November 2012.

Mike Ford 6 years, 8 months ago

tea partiers have overrun the republican party....so much so that local Republican politicians like Tom Sloan deal with more Democrats like I saw on the SRS issue in person last Monday. All the the angry caucasians want to do is strip the federal government of any power so that they can be as racist as the want to be and answer to no one. They want everything to be ran like a pta meeting because all they do is rehash failed Reagan policies and wrap them with faux outrage and their own coded racist language. You want to call Mr. Obama the annoited one I call you all a bunch of John Birch society wannabes.The reason the Democrats have been too nice is because the tea partiers act like raging lunatics...duh... the tea partiers are basically bullies that need to put in their place of pointless anger because anger is no substitution for actual ideas which many of the ones I've argued with in person are incapable of having. The big bad wolves of blowhardedness need to be confronted. You don't even get the whole history about the Boston Tea Party right and that doesn't really matter because when do angry people get facts right anyway? England taxed the colonies to pay for the Seven Years War in which Britain maintained independence for the colonies from French rule. Just like now the clueless colonists didn't want to pay for services rendered so they cheapskated their way out of responsibility and dumped tea over the wayside. Leave stupidity to the americans...peter griffin must be happy on family guy to see so many actual people acting like dimwits..keep championing anger and stupidity... it's surely a good substitution for thinking and substinence. Go Maxine!!!!

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

So the New Civility the White House was pushing has officially been thrown under the bus by the disappointed progressives?

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

The statement didn't come from the White House, so why are you blaming the administration?

Mike Ford 6 years, 8 months ago

oh by the way can't have it both ways....it takes a real coward to attack a deceased educator like my mom...who worked 70 hours a week before and after school for her kids while the dumblicans you support made her job harder. You attacked my mom on another thread. Pensions aren't handouts...you show your ignorance by attacking educated people...how courageous...

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

BTW, Maxine has good reason to be diverting attention from herself these past couple of years. "The long-delayed ethics probe of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) may be underway again, however Waters is now threatening to sue the House Ethics Committee. Waters is accused of using her influence to gain special treatment for Massachusetts-based bank OneUnited, which received $12 million in bailout funds. Changing a law was required in order to get them the money. Her husband, former Ambassador Sidney Williams, owned more than $350,000 in stock in the bank, and had also been a board member..." http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/maxine-waters-ethics-trial-stalls-again/

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

I'm not sure I've ever disagreed with a Pitts column as much as this one. In no way, shape or form should we applaud someone for telling a group of political opponents -- fellow Americans -- to "go to hell." We aren't talking about Klan members after all, just fellow Americans who have a very different opinion of what is best for our country than Democrats. I do not agree in the slightest with the tea party's agenda, but I cannot condone their being told to go to hell for their beliefs. Justifying it by saying, basically,"Well, they deserved it!" is no justification at all. Every person who disagrees with someone else -- from Maxine Waters to Joe Wilson -- feels justified in their stance. If feeling justified is the only excuse we need to behave poorly, then we are all justified in our poor behavior. That gets us absolutely nowhere.

In short, it takes more than just saying things that aren't nice about others to demonstrate a spine. It takes action, which speaks louder than words. It takes using our language to describe in great detail why we disagree, without damning individuals for their views. Act with civility toward your fellow Americas, but stand behind your convictions. That would be my recommendation to any elected official. Once elected, the partisan politician represents all the people, whether they like it or not.

kansanbygrace 6 years, 8 months ago

Seems to me, Bea, that she was reacting to a bunch whose entire repertoire is hyperbole with some hyperbole of her own.

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

Perhaps. I don't know if the tea types are entirely hyperbolic, but I do know that two wrongs don't make a right. She was in the wrong. We need to ask more of our politicians than to behave like talk radio hosts.

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

Indeed. Think back to that. You don't even have to think back that far. Look at all the horrible things said about the Obama family.

Now, do you really want to be like that toward others?

Better to rise above it and strive to not act like those whose behavior you find abhorrent. If we want civil discourse, it has to start somewhere.

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

It takes two to tango. Why let them dictate the tune and dance style? If a child acts childish, I don't act childish in return. Same is true with dealing with someone behaving with a lack of civility.

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

Ideological arguments are never settled. One side might gain a majority and thus "settle" the argument in the courts or by laws, but there are always going to be those who disagree, at least in one's own lifetime.

Can you cite me one compromise that was reached without some level of civility?

Treat others the way you would like to be treated. If it doesn't come back to you in kind, oh well. I'm going to side on the need for greater civility, even from those who I agree with.

beatrice 6 years, 8 months ago

Here is the video. There was no encounter, she was speaking at an event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBi2y8...

melott 6 years, 8 months ago

People seem to have been ignoring this part of his column, which is not so complimentary about Democrats: "Democrats have been their usual hapless, communicatively-challenged selves, the congressional equivalent of the kid in school who walks around all day with “Kick Me” taped to his back, then wonders why people keep kicking him."

There a reason why they keep losing these struggles. This is why we need a new party.

pace 6 years, 8 months ago

Having watched the tea party glory in hurting the economy, for them it was a show of power, I think THWT. They showed no sense, nor responsibility, just acted like cheer leaders for them selves. THWT.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.