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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Walking and Chewing Gum

Christopher Sopher of TAPPED took a shot today at WaPo’s Dana Milbank for a snarky column mocking Rep. Bart Stupak’s hearing on purity and truth-in-advertising issues associated with bottled water. I’ve gotta say, in all due recognition of the fact that Milbank’s column exists to be snarky about the foibles of Washington, Soper makes a good point. Check out this Milbank lede:

There must be something in the water in this town.
The nation is entangled in two wars, a deep recession and a flu pandemic, and the people’s representatives are hard at work investigating the menace of . . . bottled water?

This is the sort of thing you hear all the time: with _______ going on, why is [Washington][Congress][the administration][the mayor][the police] wasting time with ____?
Sometimes a similar howitzer is brought to bear on the idea that anyone in or out of government should be engaged in anything frivolous or fun during hard times (and what times aren’t hard in some respects for some people?): “Don’t you know there’s a war going on?”
Now it doesn’t take a great deal of deep thought to realize that every human and material resource in a society (or a government) as complex as ours cannot be perpetually focused on one or two or three big challenges. Indeed, one reason we have big challenges is that they weren’t adequately addressed when they were smaller challenges. And personally, I’d much prefer that policymakers entrusted with oversight of non-marquee issues just go right ahead and deal with them straight-on, accepting their mundane nature, instead of bending them to fit into the Big Priority Du Jour, by, say, inquiring into the possibility that jihadis are emailing each other with plans to contaminate America’s bottled water supply, or that water bottlers are in cahoots with subprime lenders.
Sometimes those who mock non-top-priority issues simply don’t want those issues addressed at all. I’d say a reasonably high percentage of Republicans who are always bashing Barack Obama for promoting health care reform or climate change legislation instead of “focusing on the economy” really just oppose health care reform and climate change legislation, and would do so if the economy was humming along nicely.
In any event, the idea that there is a direct relationship between the health of our economy and the collective amount of time Americans devote to worrying about it is ludicrous. We can and really must walk and chew gum at the same time, and maybe even pay some attention to what we are using to hydrate ourselves along the way.

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