Mar 01 2010

Shelby criticizes Obama in Cullman GOP visit

By Benjamin Bullard

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Tuscaloosa) ripped the fiscal policies of the Obama administration before a sympathetic crowd of more than 100 local Republicans Saturday, sparing no criticism for the President’s approach to stimulating the economy by borrowing from taxpayers.

“This is the most radical, the most left-wing group we’ve ever had in Washington, D.C., ideologically,” said Shelby. “They want to manage our economy. They want to create the funds that would keep things this way, to perpetually bail out companies that are failing. It’s crazy.”

Shelby visited with Cullman’s VFW Post 2214 as part of a stop in north Alabama during a weekend break from activity in the the 111th U.S. Congressional session. He told the conservative political group that liberal stances on health care reform, corporate bailouts, domestic manufacturing and international trade threaten future generations’ hopes of prosperity.

“We are the richest nation in the world,” he said, “but how long will we be, at the rate we’re going?”

Condemning the prospect of a government he said will expand endlessly if allowed, Shelby cautioned against completely removing the profit motive from American health care.

“I really believe that we have the best health care system in the world,” Shelby said. “Is it perfect? No ... but should we turn it upside down and let the government run it? I’ve been around the government for a long time, and if you believe they are going to run anything more efficiently than the private sector, you’d better look very closely.”

Shelby defended his “blanket hold” tactic of blocking dozens of presidential nominees earlier this month. Democrats and many media analysts had criticized the move, accusing Shelby of instigating a standoff motivated by his desire to bring “pork” projects into the state, chiefly a massive air refueling tanker contract originally awarded to — and then stripped from — Northrop Grumman in Mobile.

“Someone said, ‘You’re just doing this because you want to bring those jobs to Alabama,’” said Shelby. “My response was, ‘You’re doggone right I want to bring those jobs to Alabama.’”

Americans may have gotten more than they bargained for, claimed Shelby, when they gave control of the White House and the Congress to liberal leaders.

“Right now, we’re in the minority,” Shelby said. “Everyone knows politics swings. Friends of mine told me, ‘We’re voting ‘changes.’’ I replied, ‘Have you thought about what that is? It’s more taxes, bigger government, more regulation.’ That’s not my kind of change - I like incremental change. The government should not pick winners and losers in the marketplace.”

Now in his 24th year of Senate service, Shelby expressed gratitude for heavy local backing his campaign received in the 2004 Senate race.

“That 68 percent vote was probably more than I deserved, but not more than I wanted,” he joked. “I’m grateful to the people of Cullman for their support.”

Mayor Max Townson presented Shelby with the key to the City of Cullman and a bag of donuts from the Duchess Bakery, prompting the senator to recount an anecdote of a previous Cullman visit during which he asked an aide to get him “just one” donut — because, said Shelby, “if he’d bought one dozen, we’d have eaten them all.”