To Comfort The Afflicted
And Afflict The Comfortable

To Comfort The Afflicted And Afflict The Comfortable

Monday, April 22, 2024

Observercast

Reining In The Crazy

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The 2024 Legislature’s best moment so far came when Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat referred to two of his chamber’s chief demagogues as “terrorists.”

Too cynical? Perhaps. But history suggests each session’s first two months often are best remembered, if at all, for wacky ideas and flamboyant personalities, not serious public policy.

Which is not to suggest Treat’s white-hot zinger – and the howling it elicited from those targeted – should be dismissed as mere political theater.

Rather, the dust-up was confirmation that, for the moment, the adults remain in control [at least of the upper chamber], reining in the tantrum-throwers whose so-called “policy” ideas often do more harm than good and end up embarrassing Oklahoma nationally.

This is important signal from legislative leadership, given what remains on this year’s agenda, including crafting a $12 billion or so budget for the next fiscal year and exploring what, if anything, can be done to thwart state Superintendent Ryan Walters’ worst impulses.

On that front, House Speaker Charles McCall has hinted at legislative action in response to Walters’ alleged misuse of state tax dollars that funded his profile-raising, national junketing aimed at courting a Trump administration appointment, should the ex-president reclaim the White House.

On the fiscal side, always bruising budget-related battles could be even more intense this year since McCall wants an income tax cut – and Treat doesn’t, especially since lawmakers already zeroed-out the grocery sales tax.

But in an oddly comforting way, Treat’s willingness to publicly invoke the “T” word should help reassure taxpayers that the likes of Broken Arrow Sen. Nathan Dahm and Elgin Sen. Dusty Deevers aren’t able, so far, to stampede statehouse poobahs into potentially cataclysmic policymaking.

Dahm and Deevers, of course, drew Treat’s wrath for filibustering the final hours before a procedural deadline that decided which legislation would remain available for passage in the session’s final two months.

“It distracts,” Treat said, “from getting important things to the finish line on this deadline. I don’t negotiate with terrorists, so if they want to hold things up, they can hold things up as long as they want.”

Treat then wryly insisted he wasn’t labeling Dahn and Deevers actual “terrorists,” just calling their tactics “terroristic.”

Naturally, both took the bait and issued press releases responding to the pro tem’s comments – Dahm going so far as to demand an apology he knows [or should know] will never come. Both were irate Senate leadership prioritized other members’ bills over theirs for floor action.

For his part, Deevers likened Senate rules to Stockholm Syndrome, complaining of “a hierarchy of unhealthy competition and divisiveness in a culture of fear where the senators getting scraps fight against the senators getting crumbs and those starving … Senators getting scraps and crumbs even learn to thank those in power for meager rations while those in power dine without restraint.”

Stockholm Syndrome, really? Equating the regular give-and-take of public policymaking to a coping mechanism of captives whose lives are threatened?

Deevers is barely three months into office, so he still could recover from his rookie mistake. But his evangelical, social-issue driven campaign rhetoric suggests he’s probably just as incorrigible as Dahm who, in his 12th and final year in the Senate, still hasn’t figured out the difference between a show pony and a work horse. Dahm annually grabs the pre-session spotlight with extreme Culture War proposals that rarely go anywhere. Actual governing is harder work, requiring an ability to find common ground with others, not just lob verbal Molotovs.

Can Treat and McCall keep the insanity to a minimum down the stretch? For Oklahoma’s future, we can only hope so.

Arnold Hamilton, Editor
Arnold Hamilton, Editor
Arnold Hamilton became editor of The Observer in September 2006. Previously, he served nearly two decades as the Dallas Morning News’ Oklahoma Bureau chief. He also covered government and politics for the San Jose Mercury News, the Dallas Times Herald, the Tulsa Tribune and the Oklahoma Journal.
Mark Krawczyk
Mark Krawczyk
March 9, 2023
Exceptional reporting about goings on in my home state as well as informative opinion pieces that makes people think about issues of the day...........get a SUBSCRIPTION FOLKS!!!!!!!
Brette Pruitt
Brette Pruitt
September 5, 2022
The Observer carries on the "give 'em hell" tradition of its founder, the late Frosty Troy. I read it from cover to cover. A progressive wouldn't be able to live in a red state without it.