HE'S become a raging demonizer, but Wallace Collins is the one wearing the horns. The chairman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party regularly descends into the rhetorical abyss. He did it again by linking the modern tea party movement to Timothy McVeigh.
Collins is part of a long line of ineffectual state party leaders. With few exceptions, these leaders have distinguished themselves not by what they got done but what they said.
After the Democratic presidential primary last month, Collins declared that Barack Obama's relatively weak showing was an indication that “racism is alive and well in Oklahoma.” Since only Democrats voted in that primary, the chairman of their party was demonizing his own voters!
Collins is back with more overheated rhetoric with the McVeigh-tea party link. When you don't have an argument, trot out a monster. Hitler, Mussolini, McVeigh — doesn't matter.
The knock on mainstream conservatives at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing was that they were “anti-government.” The tea party is painted with the same brush today. Supporting a smaller, less-indebted government is not anti-government any more than supporting Obamacare is pro-communist.
Any connection between McVeigh and the tea party resides only in the minds of Collins and other intellectually bankrupt partisans. Collins heads a party in serious decline here. Rather than demonization, he should be working to retain the only congressional seat Democrats hold in this state.
Instead, he insulted Democrats in that district with the racism claim.
U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn got nowhere with previous efforts to reduce what government agencies spend on conferences. This time around, Coburn's colleagues in Congress like the idea. Credit goes to reports about the General Services Administration spending $823,000 on a training conference in Las Vegas in 2010. With that as the backdrop, senators this week approved an amendment by Coburn, R-Muskogee, that would cap spending on conferences and require that such spending be detailed through quarterly updates on the Internet. Coburn says the government spends at least half a billion dollars a year on conferences, and expects his changes will save taxpayers $65 million per year. Coburn has been pushing this idea for at least four years. Better late than never.
“Featherbedding” is a term for a union's ploy to force the hiring of more workers than are actually needed to accomplish a task. The U.S. Senate seems intent on imposing a form of this practice on the U.S. Postal Service, with rules that restrict the closing of post offices that clearly need to be closed. Built in to the closure criteria are layers of exceptions such as economic impact, access to broadband Internet (one of the things that has devastated first-class mail), proximity to the nearest post office, etc. USPS wants to close 3,700 post offices. Senators apparently want to shrink that number to two or three. Perhaps a dozen or so underused post offices in affluent areas with high-speed DSL and another facility within two miles might be found and actually closed. Stamp the Senate's micromanagement plan with this watermark: What a joke!
We've written recently about the challenges moderate Republicans are facing from the more conservative elements in the party. At the national level, Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar and Utah's Orrin Hatch are perhaps the two best examples. In our state Legislature, some solid Republicans have drawn challenges from opponents who say they're not conservative enough. But this isn't a Republican-only phenomenon. In Pennsylvania, two Blue Dog Democratic incumbents lost their primary races on Super Tuesday to progressive challengers. One of the winners had attacked the incumbent for opposing Obamacare. A fellow Blue Dog is U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, D-Muskogee, who after four terms chose not to seek re-election. It's doubtful the centrist Boren would have lost in a primary, but his prospects in November weren't as rosy.
State Rep. Sally Kern, R-Oklahoma City, has come in for criticism on this page more than once in recent years due to some of her off-base remarks and actions in the House. This time we come not to criticize but to salute her for House Bill 2521, which was signed recently by the governor. The bill redefines free clinics as charitable clinics and, most importantly, limits liability for the doctors and other health care workers who donate their time at those facilities. “This change in statute will ensure health care volunteers are protected from liability in both free and low-cost clinics,” Kern said. Her bill stands to make a positive impact by helping low-income Oklahomans, and won't cost the state anything. Well done.
We can thank the Sierra Club and the Environmental Protection Agency for cleaning up the air by putting so much pressure on utilities to stop making power with coal that coal-fired plants are being “voluntarily” shuttered. Oh, you can also thank them for the higher bills coming your way due to the lack of diversity in the choice of fuels to make electricity. Public Service Co. of Oklahoma, which serves the Tulsa area, is caving on an EPA crackdown on coal-caused emissions. OG&E, which serves Oklahoma City, remains committed to fighting an EPA mandate related to coal plants. Electric bills are going up no matter how this plays out, but does it make sense to shut out an abundant, domestic source of energy? Price aside, diversity seems prudent in this area. Still, Oklahoma may have a net gain from current trends: It has a lot more natural gas than it does coal.
The attorney for one of the candidates claiming victory in this month's contested House District 71 election says time is of the essence in resolving the dispute. Really? The seat has been vacant since December, when former Rep. Dan Sullivan bailed out to become head of the Grand River Dam Authority. Republican Katie Henke and Democrat Dan Arthrell are tussling over who won the April 3 election, which had a razor-thin margin first for Arthrell, then for Henke, and now involves once-missing ballots that could sway the result again. Henke's attorney told the state Supreme Court that voters in the Tulsa-area district need representation during the final month of the session. That's “crunch time” in approving a budget and dealing with other important issues, he said. And he's right. But expecting Henke or Arthrell to be able to get up to speed and really contribute to that pro-cess is a stretch.