Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

The national debt: Rep. Nugent, how about meeting in the middle?

I have an idea that could dramatically raise U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent's national profile, bring him love from his home district and allow him to shed his reputation as a Republican drone:

Agree with the Democrats.

Let me explain, in case you haven't been following the so-called super-committee, which is proving, not surprisingly, to be anything but.

This committee, remember, is the bipartisan group of lawmakers assigned to do what the president and Congress couldn't do last summer — agree to a reasonable reduction of the national debt. Specifically, it was supposed to trim the deficit by $1.2 trillion. Its deadline, though officially Nov. 23, is really just days away if it hopes to give the Congressional Budget Office time to check whether the plan will slice as much as claimed. The clock is tick, tick, ticking away.

So far, according to a Monday editorial in the New York Times, Democratic members have followed a familiar script by falling all over themselves to compromise, offering a $3.2 trillion package with deep cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Only $1.2 trillion of the debt reduction would come from increased revenues.

Republicans, also playing to type, have simply said "no."

In seeking middle ground, Democrats find themselves in a place formerly known as the "far right." So it wouldn't be a stretch for Nugent, who in his old job as sheriff was considered a moderate, to say publicly that maybe the Democrats on the committee have something worth considering.

It's worked on the state level — not agreeing with Democrats, necessarily, but bucking party leadership — for senators such as Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland, and Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey. Sure, it has doomed their chances for statewide office anytime soon. Dockery said as much last month when she came to our office for an interview. But I get the feeling voters in their districts, which include parts of Hernando, would walk through walls for the chance to vote for them.

Which can be said of almost nobody in Washington. A recent New York Times/CBS News poll showed that only 6 percent of voters believe most representatives should be returned to office.

Maybe the energy of the Occupy Wall Street movement is a measure of broader public disgust with the Republicans' goal of protecting the wealthy. People are definitely fed up with Washington's failure to make progress on big issues.

Which gives Nugent his chance to shine. He has shown glimmers of moderation in his new job, after all. At least he voted to end the budget crisis this summer, which caused him to take some heat from tea partiers, even if he was just agreeing to kick the can down the road.

Now is the time to take a much bolder step.

Tear up that no-new-taxes pledge to Grover Norquist. Stand up as a true moderate Republican ready to consider a sensible, balanced, long-term strategy to cut the national debt.

Nugent could be the darling of the national media, the little freshman legislator who could. He could have his Mr. Smith-Goes-to-Washington moment — taking on the complacent pooh-bahs, proving himself a true independent in a town of foot soldiers.

Mr. Smith was Hollywood, of course. Old, corny Hollywood at that. So this won't happen. But that won't stop us from pointing out that it should.

The national debt: Rep. Nugent, how about meeting in the middle? 11/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 3, 2011 8:32pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay deputies head to UF to assist with Richard Spencer's speech

    Public Safety

    Local deputies are heading up to Alachua County in preparation of white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech in Gainesville on Thursday.

    Local deputies are heading up to Alachua County in preparation of white nationalist Richard Spencer's speech in Gainesville on Oct. 19, 2017. 
As officials brace for Spencer's appearance, law enforcement officials streamed into Alachua County the morning before. [Alex Wroblewski | The New York Times]
  2. Gymnast McKayla Maroney alleges sexual abuse by team doctor


    Two-time Olympic medalist McKayla Maroney says she was molested for years by a former USA Gymnastics team doctor, abuse she said started in her early teens and continued for the rest of her competitive career.

    U.S. gymnast McKayla Maroney poses after completing her routine on the vault during the Artistic Gymnastic women's qualifications at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Maroney posted a statement on Twitter Oct. 18, 2017, in which she said she was molested for years by former Team USA doctor Larry Nassar. [Associated Press]
  3. Top 5 at Noon: Facts on Richard Spencer's Florida visit; Column: Jameis, don't be a hero; Locale Market changes again


    Here are the latest headlines and updates on

    White nationalist Richard Spencer (C) and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer is set to speak at the University of Florida. [Getty]
  4. Bucs Cannon Fodder podcast: Uncertainty surrounds Jameis Winston's health


    Greg Auman talks about the Bucs' quarterback situation, with uncertainty around Jameis Winston's health, in his latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Jameis Winston takes the field for warmups before the Bucs' game against the Cardinals Sunday in Glandale, Ariz. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  5. Pasco mom, caretaker face charges after toddler suffers fractured skull


    PORT RICHEY — A 13-month-old toddler who suffered severe head injuries and brain hemorrhaging is now in the care of a foster family, and both of the child's caretakers face felony charges.

    Wyatt Frank Laughlin faces a felony charge of aggravated child abuse after a 13-month-old child in his care suffered a skull fracture and clots in the brain and eyes. [Courtesy Pasco County Sheriff's Office]