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Republicans in Congress remind me of a bunch of 2-year-olds because it seems the only word they know how to say is, “No.”Bailout of the giant troubled financial institutions? “No.”

Aid for America’s ailing auto industry? “No.”

A stimulus package to help states, local governments, educational institutions and private industry put people back to work? “No.”Health-care reform? “No! No! No! No!”

Even now as President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders in Congress offer additional plans (and money) to bring down the nation’s unemployment rate, Republicans say we can’t afford to do that.

They suddenly are worried about the budget deficit. The truth is, we can’t afford not to do some of these things as the country battles against a depression-like economy, record unemployment and home foreclosures, sky-rocketing health-care costs and — dare I mention? — two wars.

The other unvarnished truth is that Republicans are hoping that things stay bad, at least for another year.

That is the only way they will be able to manage anything remotely resembling victory in next year’s mid-term elections. They want unemployment high, which they think will translate into the president’s approval numbers being low.

They want people hurting in hopes that voters will take revenge for their pain against Democratic officeholders in the House, Senate and state houses around the country.

When the unemployment rate reached 10.2 percent in October, the highest since 1983, GOP congressional leaders could not even feign concern, regret or sorrow for those without jobs.

And when some economists were predicting that the rate would go higher and remain above 10 percent through next year, Republicans thanked their political gods for this manna from heaven.

Then last week when the employment figures came in and showed a drop to 10 percent, you could feel their disappointment.

Add to that misery the fact that the big banks are paying back their government loans faster than had been predicted and that the government will lose less money on the bank bailouts than we had thought, and suddenly the holiday season doesn’t look as dark as many GOP leaders had anticipated.

Now they are focusing their attention on trying to figure out a way to stop healthcare reform, feeling that defeat of that one bill will signal a major blow to the president, whom they have labeled “socialist” and “communist.”

Frankly, I think they have overplayed their hand. There may be another spike in the unemployment rate over the next few months, but I predict by summer it will be lower than it is now due to measures taken by this administration.

The banks, with added regulation, continued oversight and taxpayers’ help, will be in better shape and will begin to loan money again. The housing industry will begin to rebound, bringing with it a limited increase in construction jobs.

If Republicans are not careful, they will be going into next year’s elections facing voters who will have gained renewed optimism — grateful for an administration that was able to tackle several looming issues at the same time and take bold actions to address them.

Should that happen, the only thing members of the “No” party will be able to do is find a way to be against the war in Afghanistan, our one big dilemma I’m afraid will not look better in 10 months than it looks today.

My hope, of course, is that significant progress will be made in that conflict (militarily and politically), and that continued success will be such that the president can keep his promise to begin withdrawing American troops by July 2011.

Unfortunately, my fear is that things will continue to get worse as we fight a determined insurgency we don’t understand, attempt to train Afghan troops who will not remain loyal to the cause and try to forge a partnership with a central government that is totally ineffective.These are tough times for this country, imperiled partly by the disunity that prevails from the halls of Congress to local neighborhoods.

Americans should be able to expect better from their leaders than divisive rhetoric and the ability to throw out stumbling blocks to progress.

Certainly recent history has proved that such childish behavior can come from either major political party.

It just so happens that it is mostly coming from the Republican side of the aisle this time because they are in the minority and they are bankrupt when it comes to having progressive ideas.

So, as the president and his party struggle with some of the toughest problems facing this country in a generation, it looks like we can count on Republicans to remain on the sidelines (or in their playpens), continuing to hurl their one-word solution to everything: “No!”


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