Exorcising Eric Cantor

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My congressman is none other than Eric Cantor, the leader of the House Republican majority. In fact, the house in the Richmond, Va., suburbs where I live was once owned by one of Cantor's relatives, and he played here when he was a child.

Thinking about that gives me the willies.

It's creepy to be represented by a politician as fanatical and conceited as Cantor has proved to be during the ridiculous negotiations between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans over the federal budget and debt ceiling.  Throughout the talks, Cantor and his obstructionist allies in Congress have been dancing to the tune played by Rush Limbaugh.

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I refer, of course, to the wish expressed by the right-wing broadcaster even before Obama was sworn in: "I hope he fails." To make sure we all know how serious he is about this, Limbaugh reiterated a few months ago, "I still want Obama to fail."

He, along with Cantor and his congressional acolytes, wants Obama to fail even if it means destroying the full faith and credit of the U.S. in the process. They seem to hate Obama so much that they have forgotten to love America. They put the lunatic in the lunatic fringe. Even the Chinese, who own more than $1 trillion in U.S. government debt, are lecturing us on the need to act responsibly about our economy.

Here in Richmond, Cantor's egotism and ideological rigidity are no secret. The quotation he chose to accompany his high school yearbook photograph remains awesomely revealing: "I want what I want when I want it." What he wants now is for Limbaugh's wish to come true and for Obama to fail. Their calculation seems to be that if disaster befalls the U.S., Obama will take the blame and a Republican will waltz back into the White House. How partisan can you get?

Cantor's diehard opposition to taxes, even when they are needed to fund governmental necessities such as highways and schools, is extreme, even by the hidebound standards of the Old Dominion. When he served as a state legislator, he earned the nickname "Overdog" for his support of the wealthy and big corporations at the expense of the middle class and the poor.

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That approach is not only cruel; it's also completely irresponsible. As the Richmond Times-Dispatch's political columnist Jeff Schapiro points out, Cantor's no-taxes-no-how views are a far cry from the tight-fisted standards set by conservative Virginia leaders of the past. Men such as the late former governor and senator Harry Byrd Sr. preferred, as a last resort, to pay for essentials such as roads by raising taxes instead of borrowing the money through bonds and running up interest-bearing debt. Byrd and most other conservative Virginians believed in the principle of pay as you go.

That approach is precisely the opposite of the stance that Cantor's Republican cronies took during the early days of President George W. Bush's regime, when they voted to fritter away the budget surpluses they'd inherited from President Bill Clinton by cutting taxes and embarking on two costly wars without raising the revenues to pay for them. They believe in the principle of borrowing and spending — in other words, running up red ink. And because of them, the national debt has gone through the roof.

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According to an analysis by the Washington Post, Bush-era policies account for $7 trillion in new national debt over the past decade — four times as much as the $1.7 trillion in debt that can be blamed on Obama. When Bush was in power, of course, Republicans like Cantor agreed with the demonic Dick Cheney that runaway "deficits don't matter."

That was nonsense then, and it's nonsense now, as is Cantor's oft-stated claim that we can close the deficit by spending cuts alone without raising tax revenues. It's as ludicrous as the dangerous hooey being spewed by Tea Party darling Michele Bachmann, who claims that it would be no big deal if the debt ceiling were not raised by the Aug. 2 deadline and the government defaulted on its debt. 

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Some Democrats, to be sure, also drank the Kool-Aid. But it's the Republican right wing that poured the powder, added the water and stirred the mixture. Their petulant intransigence stands in the way of a distasteful bargain between Obama and pragmatic Republicans like Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner that would involve cuts to Social Security and Medicare and new tax revenues. They seem to relish the idea of disaster.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that Cantor is so childish that he doesn't belong at the negotiating table. I say he's a dangerous zombie possessed by the evil spirit of Limbaugh.

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And to think that he once frolicked in the place where I now make my home. Anyone know where I can find an exorcist?

Jack White is a regular contributor to The Root.

is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.

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