The Babylon Bee, the audacious satire site that skewers politics and politicians, got it just right with a mock headline this week.
“Democrats Propose $800 Billion ‘If You Don’t Vote For This You Hate Puppies’ Spending Bill,” read the header.
“Congressional Republicans face a difficult choice this week, as Democrats have introduced a bill to save puppies but attached billions in unrelated spending. Conservatives may propose amendments, but hesitate to oppose the bill since it is named ‘If You Don’t Vote For This You Hate Puppies,’” said the lead.
It was funny — and also not, because that’s essentially what happened last week when Republicans blocked a $700 billion bill ostensibly targeted at helping American veterans.
Millions of veterans — more than 85% of post-9/11 veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan — were exposed to open burn pits used to incinerate all sorts of hazardous material and chemical compounds at military sites abroad.
But here’s the thing: Just more than $300 billion in the Democrat bill would go to the veterans. A cabal of liberal lawmakers loaded up the legislation with another $400 billion worth of liberal spending going to climate change and health care expenses.
Republicans in the Senate (who, for the record, had already supported the legislation in a lopsided 84-14 first vote) were having none of the new spending, and so rejected the bill. They wanted a clean vote on the burn pit money, and another for the grab bag of pork-barrel spending laid out by Democrats (which they would, of course, reject).
Thus it was just like that puppy headline. The mainstream media — and a “pseudo-celebrity” — immediately declared that Republicans hate our men and women in the military.
Comedian-turned-activist-turned-animal-rescuer Jon Stewart led the charge, and he was everywhere — on the steps of the Capitol, lurking in its hallowed hallways, all over the Sunday talk shows.
“I mean the whole thing has been — this is so bananas. Nothing changed. So, I don’t understand any of this,” Mr. Stewart said on ABC’s “This Week.”
The next day, Mr. Stewart got fiery in an impassioned speech on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
“You can attack me all you want … but here’s the beautiful thing, I don’t give a s—-. I’m not scared of you. I don’t care,” he told a group of veterans.
“I get it: I am a liberal piece of shit,” he said, using a southern drawl. “I get it. I’m Hunter Biden’s cocaine dealer. I’m more gay pride flag than man. … But the VFW isn’t…and the Wounded Warriors Project isn’t, so why are they standing here?” Mr. Stewart said.
But here’s the problem: Politics are complicated. Aside from the additional $400 billion lumped into the bill, Democrats wanted the legislation to be permanent, placed in the category of “mandatory” spending each year.
The leader of the issue, Sen. Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican, took Mr. Stewart to school, dressing down the former “Daily Show” host. He also blasted Democrats for using “the oldest trick in Washington.”
“People take a sympathetic group of Americans — and it could be children with an illness, it could be victims of crime, it could be veterans who’ve been exposed to toxic chemicals — craft a bill to address their problems, and then sneak in something completely unrelated that they know could never pass on its own, and dare Republicans to do anything about it,” Mr. Toomey said.
The bill’s supporters, he said, then “unleash their allies in the media and maybe a pseudo-celebrity to make up false accusations to try to get us to just swallow what shouldn’t be there.”
In measured tones — a sharp contrast from Mr. Stewart’s profanity-laced tirade — Mr. Toomey said Republicans don’t oppose the bill itself, but don’t support Democrats using it to acquire funds for unrelated matters and to change discretionary funding to mandatory spending.
“We are spending way too much money, to use — to hide behind a veterans bill the opportunity to go on an unrelated $400 billion spending spree is wrong. And we shouldn’t allow it,” Mr. Toomey said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
But the pseudo-celebrity was on a roll and thinks politics is all about who shouts the loudest. Still at the Capitol, Mr. Stewart got into a heated yelling bout with conservative political commentator and media personality Jack Posobiec.
“You’re a f——— troll!” Mr. Stewart screamed in Mr. Posobiec’s face, his neck veins bulging. “You’re a troll! You’re not in good faith!”
Just like the puppies headline, it’s silly to think Republicans don’t support our men and women in the military. But like many people today, sadly, Mr. Stewart thinks the only way to effect change is to scream at people. He’s passionate, and that’s always a good thing. But change takes place after sensible debate by calm and reasoned men and women — often with both sides compromising for the good of the nation.
That’s the lesson Mr. Stewart should learn on his field trip to Washington.
• Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @josephcurl