Don't Play Games With Our Planes!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 25 2013 2:11 PM

Don't Play Games With Our Planes!

photo (15)

Seven weeks ago, when Congress and President Obama failed to agree on a mixed replacement for sequestration, Americans for Prosperity was unafraid. "With the sequester, Congress made a promise to the American people to cut spending," said AFP spokesman Levi Russell. "They deserve to be congratulated for actually keeping that promise."

Earlier today, on short notice the young and hardy staffers of Americans for Prosperity gathered outside of Washington's Ronald Reagan National Airport to protest... sequestration. Twenty-odd professional conservatives, joined by a few grassroots conservatives, chanted whatever slogans could find rhymes for "planes" -- something that really worked when they realized that the Backstreet Boys's "Quit Playin' Games With My Heart" could be used as source material -- and waved both home-made signs and AFP-branded signs reading "Keep Your Politics Off Our Planes."

It was the first grassroots-ish manifestation I've seen of the new agreed-upon conservative message. You can boil it down like this.

- Insofar as it cut spending, sequestration was great.
- Actually, the FAA's post-sequestration budget is higher than last year's and more than Obama asked for.
- It's Barack Obama's fault that the FAA is responding to sequestration with some flight delays.
Dave Schwartz, recently minted Virginia state director of the group, handled most of the media interviews.

And the rally sort of worked. A local NBC news crew was nearby, filming its own sequestration hit, peering over; ABC News sent a reporter to capture the chants. Departing passengers buzzed by in cabs and sedans, gawking a little but not coming over to inspect the situation, but everyone was on message.

"Sequestration was stupid, but it's here, and they should fix it," said Fred Walker, a recent retiree who didn't work for AFP (but was on the mailing list). He stood off to the side, protecting his eyes from the clear-sky sun with a cowboy hat. "Reagan fired 10,000 air traffic controllers, and the planes stayed in the air. There were no delays. It was about leadership."

And the conservatives are basically right. This is a stare-down, between an administration that is not delegating the FAA et al to ask for more flexibility, and a Congress that doesn't want to increase spending.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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