Distinguished lineage is no guarantee of good breeding, and in the case of the junior senator from Rhode Island, the gap is startling. Mayflower ancestry, a diplomat grandfather and father, railroad money, and education at the best schools seem, if anything, to have encouraged the hauteur and contempt for opponents for which Sheldon Whitehouse is increasingly known. They were on display again at a Senate hearing last week, when the senator greeted the solid testimony of economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth with gratuitous insult.
You might think a Budget Committee hearing on economic growth and tax reform would be of interest to a senator whose state, at 9 percent, leads the pack in unemployment. But instead of using his time for any constructive purpose, Whitehouse chose to express pique that Furchtgott-Roth had testified too many times for his liking on Capitol Hill. He proceeded to read off a list of 17 committee and subcommittee hearings, at which she has spoken during her decades in Washington, and with each, the subject of her testimony. Furchtgott-Roth, former chief economist at the Department of Labor and the author of five books, tried to deflect this condescending exercise with humor. “Oh dear,” she said, “you’re showing everybody how old I am.” But Whitehouse, unrelenting, went on, stressing that she had always appeared as a Republican witness (duh) and asking with heavy sarcasm, “Is there any area where you won’t testify?”
Running for office in a lopsidedly Democratic state (Rhode Island twice went for Obama by 63 percent), the liberal Whitehouse hasn’t had to learn to be polite to people who are not already in his camp. To him, political opponents are always deniers, fearmongers, enemies of truth. Lest you think The Scrapbook exaggerates, consider this doozy from the senator’s remarks on the Senate floor shortly before the passage of Obamacare:
Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction, and fear. History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees.
Opponents of Obamacare—that is, virtually all Republicans and usually majorities of the American people—as lynch mobs and fascist thugs? It looks like Furchtgott-Roth got off easy.