Boren's day in the sun

Robert Reno

June 17, 1993|By Robert Reno

IN A TOWN where posturers don't really stand out that much, David Boren is having an unusual day in the sun.

To hear him tell it, he's the only principled Democrat in town, or at least in the Senate, fighting a lonely and selfless battle against -- and hear buzz words gush from his mouth this weekend -- "the far left of the Democratic Party," "this class warfare kind of rhetoric," and the dreaded "left wing."

In single-handedly derailing the president's budget in the Senate, he has managed to make honest deficit reduction sound like a neo-Bolshevik plot and the Btu tax a plank of the communist manifesto. And he has painted himself as the best friend the president ever had, a man who only wants to save his misguided pal from becoming a "prisoner of the far left."

Can you imagine being Senator Boren's friend? Who of us wouldn't sooner crawl in bed with a rattlesnake? At least a snake wouldn't go on TV and tell the world we're a bumbling dupe about to be taken in by dangerous radicals.

Anyway, as Congress lurches toward a resolution of the budget fight this week, the nastiness level seems to be rising along with the general impression that Bill Clinton hasn't handled the situation as well as he could have.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller, who sits on the Finance Committee with Mr. Boren and obviously can't stand him, said earlier that this is unfair.

"I'm just sick of people putting this on Bill Clinton," he said. "The problem is David Boren. David Boren and Kerr-McGee energy company in Oklahoma have been running the Congress for a month and a half."

Kerr-McGee Corp., of course, means oil in Oklahoma -- that and power, influence and the means to break a senator who offends the oil industry. And these are sharp words for a Rockefeller to hurl at another senator who's just plodding along trying to save Bill Clinton from the lefties and all of us from a bloody outbreak of class warfare.

Curious, isn't it? Could old John D. Rockefeller, who used to buy and sell senators by the bushel back when he was making the world safe for Standard Oil, ever have imagined that a great-grandson of his, still living on the fortune the elder Rockefeller made, would someday be ranting against the oil lobby for taking over the U.S. Senate?

In the end, of course, the Senate Finance Committee will reach some sort of agreement this week, something that Senator Boren can claim as a victory over the lefties, whoever they are, something that will not be a complete sellout to the oil companies and something that will probably achieve pretty much the amount of deficit reduction the president is seeking. The real question is, will liberals in the House of Representatives, feeling themselves sold out and seeing how easy it is to pull a David Boren, decide to collectively pull one of their own.

In any event, there will be some sort of a new tax on energy, gasoline, whatever. And as I recall, the last time anybody dared suggest higher taxes on energy was when President Carter tried to add a mere 4 cents a gallon to the federal gasoline tax. He got buried in the House of Representatives 370-32. Times have changed.

Robert Reno is a columnist for Newsday.

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