Rep. Anthony Weiner says Republicans have chutzpah. Chutzpah is something the Brooklyn Democrat knows well.
While debating health insurance reform recently, Weiner stood up on the floor and ripped into Republicans, calling them "wholly owned subsidiaries of the insurance industry." After a few seconds, Rep. Dan Lungren, a Republican from California, asked that Weiner's words be "taken down," a rare request for the speaker to discipline a House member for using inappropriate language. Weiner left, then returned saying he would substitute his words. He actually sounded slightly remorseful. It was a ruse.
After he was given the nod for a second go-round, Weiner couldn't think of anything new to say but instead repeated his mantra. Lungren was not amused with this reiteration and asked that his remarks be taken down again. Weiner finished his rant with a conclusion about health insurance, competition and regulation that was confusing as it is comical.
The three-minute clip is circulating the Internet. Conservatives have been rolling their eyes -- National Review Online included the clip on its home page with the words: "Weiner Loses It." Liberals on the other hand are linking to it with pride. Daily Kos says it was "magnificent" and that Weiner's words should be their new mantra because it "makes a great sigline!"
Like any good politician (including Rep. Joe Wilson), Weiner has taken his latest media hit and milked it for all it's worth. He posted about the event on Huffington Post and included a link encouraging fans to make a monetary contribution -- even as little as $5. "I have never met a single Republican who is not a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry. But as for me, I'm not owned by anyone. To prove it to the Republicans and special interest, I'm organizing 2,000 grassroots donors to stand up and show them that we won't back down, and they can't silence us."
As childish as this tirade might have sounded, Weiner's not as much a wiener as he may seem. He has represented New York's 9th district -- which includes parts of Brooklyn -- for ten years. As staunch liberal who favors the public option (with voluble zeal), he displays a sharp wit and quick tongue make him a colorful urban pol. In some ways, he's the Michele Bachmann of the Left, saying just enough to spark controversy, thereby resulting in appearances on cable news and talk radio but not enough to carry heavy weight by peers.
If every politician gets fifteen minutes of fame, Weiner, an expert in circulating among regular media spots, still has fourteen left. As intelligent as he is fervent, he's got a quick retort to any comment by a Republican he disagrees with and a seemingly well-constructed argument for or against any legislation he's passionate about.
This three-minute rant was no exception. It came as the House was debating a bill to repeal the insurance industry's exemption from antitrust laws. Though some Republicans, including House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), opposed it, the bill passed (Weiner voted for it). Towards the end of his speech, Weiner said he there are inequities in the way we distribute insurance.
The people who sit on this side…generally support the idea of standing up for the American people in their daily battles against high insurance. And the people…who sit on this side…simply won't permit that to happen and haven't…that's because we're going to have competition, we're going to make sure there are regulations and we're going to make sure people aren't gouged.
Weiner may speak with vehemence and act like a child (he threw the microphone down after Lungren asked that his words be taken down a second time) but passion doesn't make up for ignorance of the facts. His understanding of insurance and the free market is fundamentally flawed.
Competition and regulation go together like oil and water, but then again this is coming from a person who says he will not vote for a healthcare bill unless it includes the public option. To say that "every single Republican" he's every met is a "wholly owned subsidiary to the insurance company" is not only an exaggeration but an impossibility, not to mention one that lacks any rationale.
Fortunately, not every Democrat you're likely to meet is Anthony Weiner.