Indiana citizens aren’t making much progress recycling paper and plastic, but we seem to be leading in the reuse of old politicians. Evan Bayh is apparently preparing to run for Governor again, and in the race to replace him, Republicans want us to send Dan Coats back to Washington—a city he is intimately familiar with, having been there as a Representative, Senator, Ambassador and lobbyist.
I don’t know which is worse, listening to Bayh piously declare that he left the Senate because his sensibilities were offended by partisan sniping, or listening to Coats engage in it.
This is the point in the political cycle where it is nearly impossible to avoid 30-second spots in which Candidate A explains that Candidate B is unfit for public office, because—unlike Candidate A—Candidate B lacks “Hoosier Values.” Plenty of politicians employ these tactics and the empty phrases that invariably accompany them, and it may be unfair to pick on Dan Coats, but his ads are especially vacuous.
Here is a man who certainly should know something about policy. He’s been part of the legislature; a member of George W. Bush’s inner circle (he was even tapped by Bush to shepherd a Supreme Court nominee through the confirmation process) and most recently, a high-priced lobbyist. Yet his political ads are absolutely devoid of content; they consist entirely of labeling and name-calling.
The wisdom and adequacy of the new healthcare law is an entirely appropriate issue for debate and discussion. Coats clearly disapproves of the law, but he doesn’t tell us why. He just calls it “Obamacare” and “a bad idea.” What parts of it does he disagree with? Does it go too far? Not far enough?
In one ad, Coats says that support for the economic stimulus was a “vote against Indiana.” There is an overwhelming consensus among economists—conservative and liberal alike—that the economy would be immeasurably worse without that stimulus. If Coats disagrees, he doesn’t tell us why. We are supposed to know the stimulus was “bad” because it is associated with “Pelosi, Reid and Obama.” Should voters ask Coats how he reconciles his claim to fiscal conservatism with his support for the profligate Bush administration? These are not arguments; they are guilt-by-association smears.
As long as we’re recycling, I’ll resurrect the famous Wendy’s commercial question: where’s the beef?
The truth is that there isn’t any “beef.” Coats—and Bayh, if he really does run again for Governor—are useful to their respective parties because they have money and name recognition, not because they bring energy or new ideas to the table. They have name recognition because they’ve been around for a long time—and have thus been part of the problem. They have money because they are old Washington insiders who’ve demonstrated an ability to play nicely with the vested interests. We can assume they have no new ideas, because they aren’t offering any.
I’ll recycle paper and plastic, but I draw the line at recycling old politicians.