For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email

Rob Douglas: The blame game of politics


Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at

Find more columns by Douglas here.

— “Elect Romney because Obama made the economy worse and unemployment is higher now than when he took office.”

“You can’t blame Obama for the economy and higher unemployment. It’s all Bush’s fault!”

“Bush? How can you blame Bush? The economy was soaring under Bush until the tax-and-spend Democrats took control of Congress in 2006!”

“Give me a break. The Democrats were just trying to reinstate the policies of Clinton that saved the country from Reagan’s trickle-down economics that crippled the middle class and grew deficits.”

“You’re trying to blame Reagan? Reagan saved this country from Carter’s malaise while destroying the Soviet Union and igniting an economic expansion that lasted through Clinton’s presidency.”

“You’re out of your mind! Carter saved this country from that criminal Nixon and his band of Watergate thugs!”

“Well, none of our fiscal woes would have happened if the Democrats weren’t a bunch of Stalin-loving Marxists!”

“You’re crazy. It’s because the GOP is a bunch of fascists — racist, sexist, homophobic fascists!”

Ah, yes. If there’s one game we’ve perfected in America, it’s the political blame game.

It’s an axiom of American politics that our political parties, candidates and elected officials attempt to divert the attention of the electorate away from their own record or platform by slinging mud at their opponents. And like lemmings of folklore, the American electorate seems perfectly willing to follow their ideological leaders right off the cliffs of sanity.

And lest we get too parochial by only denouncing the unseemly gamesmanship of the political Goliaths in Washington, we should recognize that the same partisan bickering is increasingly present in most every community across America.

Yes, even here in the ’Boat.

Anyone with the least bit of familiarity with Steamboat politics has witnessed current and former members of the Steamboat Springs City Council toss blame-coated barbs at their predecessors and contemporaries when it comes to issues like Steamboat 700, medical marijuana, being pro-development, being anti-growth, the Rehder Building, affordable housing, the Gloria Gossard Parkway, historic preservation, downtown noise levels, building heights, city managers, and the granddaddy of them all, the Iron Horse Inn.

Still, for every rule there is an exception. When it comes to the political blame game in the Yampa Valley, that exception is the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

Like firmly-rooted whitetop, Nancy Stahoviak, Doug Monger and Diane Mitsch Bush have been planted in their offices so long that when they look in the rearview mirror for a previous office-holder to blame they can only see themselves. So, el trio commish do what all pols who have been around so long they have potatoes growing from their ears do — they blame department managers and staff for blunders resulting from their own addiction to micromanagement.

As an aside, does anyone have any idea why a county so small requires so many meetings? Does it really take two days of public meetings each and every week for the commissioners to pick nits?

So, why is it that our elected representatives and political parties at all levels of government increasingly resort to the blame game? And why is the blame game growing uglier and uglier?

The answer is quite simple.

Ever since the New Deal, politicians of all stripes and at all levels have learned that they will be rewarded — meaning re-elected or advanced to higher office — for providing individual and corporate welfare and services to citizens and industries while shifting the mounting debt to future generations.

But now, as Mr. Scott said more than once to Captain Kirk, “We have a problem.”

We can no longer kick the cost of 70 years of accumulated deficits down the road.

The bill has come due.

Everybody knows it. No one wants to pay it.

Bottom line: The two dominant political parties play the blame game because neither has the political spine to admit the music is about to stop and the hangover from seven decades of deficit spending is about to sicken us all. So, partisans of both parties cast aspersions while hoping against hope that a painless fix for the painfully unfixable will fall from the sky.

For 20 years, Steamboat resident Rob Douglas was a Washington, D.C. private detective specializing in homicide, political corruption and terrorism. Since 1998, Douglas has been a commentator on local, state and national politics in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Colorado. To reach Rob Douglas, email


mark hartless 4 years, 11 months ago

Exactly, Rob. But go just one small step further. It's the electorate which has given these skumbags their authority. An uninformed, lazy, self-absorbed, and ignorant bunch if ever there was one. And they did so by robbing their own kids. grandkids, neighbors and family. The fault lies not in our politicians, but in ourselves.

Half the country thinks they are entitled to more; the other half is sick of giving free stuff to ungrateful idiots.

I think we have the makings for some serious strife on our hands.


Scott Ford 4 years, 11 months ago

Hi Rob – The blame game is a part of the human condition. An illustration of this took place in Garden of Eden. – When God asked Adam why he ate the “apple” when he knew he was not suppose to. Adam’s response, “The woman you gave me gave it to me.” It is almost like he's saying, "You know God it's partly your fault because you gave me this woman."

When Eve was confronted her response – “The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat." At least she was honest, but implied in her response is, “Hey God the creepy little creature tricked me so don't go getting on my case; it was not entirely my fault."

We blame others because it way too difficult to accept individual responsibility.

Here is a challenge in personal responsibility – Try to go a whole day without making any excuses for yourself. It is almost impossible.

When I taught the Careers Class (all 12th graders) at the high school – I heard a lot of excuses for why an assignment was not completed on time. If I thought the excuse was lame, one could turn in the assignment late only if in the class’s judgment the individual could perform a skit from the Blues Brothers reasonably flawless.

We had some great performances - a lot of laughs and a few life lesson about owning one's decisions.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 11 months ago

Scott F, So how do you explain how Germany changed it's worker laws to make it easier to hire and fire employees and raised their retirement age?

Or how they their job sharing program allows people to keep jobs with reduced hours and the government helps the affected employees with unemployment insurance to make up for reduced wages? And thus, they have done a much more effective job at propping up their economy through the recession.

Was it greed, power or fear that overcame lack of personal responsibility?

I think it is always easy to generalize and blame greed, obsession with power, lack of personal responsibility, racism, bigotry, sloth or whatever sin for the problems of the day.

The real question is whether the people and institutions of a country are able to find a way to reasonably solve the problem or not. And if not, then how long is the problem allowed to be a constant sore and drag down the country before a way is found to solve it. The USA was probably the first that did a good job in solving issues of monopolization and predatory business practices while still leaving companies free to form and make money. Teddy Roosevelt's reforms put the USA many years ahead of other countries in terms of fair business practices and it helped us. Meanwhile, slavery and institutional racism both persisted until the foundations of the country itself were threatened. It took a Civil War to deal with slavery. Fortunately, the courts rulings on equal protection and the federal government's decision to enforce legal decisions allowed a path to resolving institutional racism in the 50s and 60s.

Right now, the US government appears to be stuck between entrenched well financed political positions and unable to work on solutions in the country's best interests. The eventual solution will probably be the voters deciding one party is proposing unacceptable solutions and so the other party will end up with the responsibility of governing in the country's best interests. And then the weak political party has to readjust or remain irrelevant.

Such as the Republican Party after FDR had to accept Social Security because it had become popular along with most of the New Deal in order to have individuals elected in the 50s. They stopped running against the political fight that left them nearly powerless, but instead starting running on the idea that they could operate them better and focused on opposing the new ideas by the Democrats.

The closing premise of Rob's column is factually false, because the bill has most certainly not come due. It has come due in Greece, but the dollar has been gaining and people/countries still pay minimal interest rates to buy our debt. Financial markets have confidence that we will solve the problem even if we don't see how the people we elect to Congress can solve it.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 11 months ago

As for the Routt County Commissioners - the two days of meetings appears to be working well. There is always going to be someone spending a lot of time being in charge. It could be a city manager, school superintendent, town clerk and so on that periodically informs the elected officials of what has been done in their names. And then when their manager does things in a way not liked by the elected officials then they fire their manager, pay severance and spends lots on a search for a new one.

Routt County government is not being burdened by lots of crazy ideas from the CCs. The opposite may be true. By being so closely involved in government issues then they can more easily see the difficulties of trying this or that idea.

The county's annual budget is about $46 million. So they are supervising, on average, the spending of a million dollars per meeting. That hardly seems unreasonable and could easily be viewed as elected officials keeping a close eye on the spending of public funds.

Routt County is not running deficits, has a minimal debt load resulting from projects that will serve the public for many years. I am not sure what Mr Douglas thinks is being done wrong by Routt County government or how CC having fewer or shorter meetings would improve things.

And surely public sector managers can be promoted or demoted based upon job performance. And the normal way of blaming a manager for problems is a well publicized firing, not a modest demotion with minimal publicity.

Oh well, just another Rob Doumbaugh column that is short on facts and reason.


jerry carlton 4 years, 11 months ago

Scott Wedel Were you once a college Professor? I can tell that you seem to be very intelligent and I actually agree with most of what you say. However very often my old eyes get tired of reading. You should reveal more of yourself in these posts. I assume you have seen me calling Rob to task for calling you a gutless coward in one of his posts. I do not know what precipitated that but I still think he was looking in the mirror.


mark hartless 4 years, 11 months ago

When, I wonder, would Scott consider our bill being due? Even at todays low rates the nation coughs up copious amounts of money on interest payments alone. Before 2016 the interest on our chineese debt will fund China's entire military.

Also, I might be missing something... "people pay minimal interest to buy our debt"? I thought investors in american debt recieve interest (not pay it) for lending our government money (investing in our debt). And I think they get an interest rate based on their demand for our debt, which could stay high or it could drop, causing those interest rates to spike abruptly.

In saying that the financial markets are confident we will solve the problem one should be careful to remember that markets turn, they crash, they have the ability to do an about-face overnight while it would take decades to meaningfully turn the nation even if we could agree whether to steer hard to starboard or to port, something we are unable to do.
In this regard we are rudderless and at the mercy of the icebergs to steer away from us, rather than the other way around.

I understand some of Scotts argument about political discomfort tending to pull political parties back in line with the wishes of the people, however, I find that happening less and less. As Charles Murray points out in his latest book "Comming Apart", there is "a new upper class that makes decisions affecting the lives of everyone else but increasingly doesn't know much about how everyone else lives".

The place might not be well lighted and the wine and fare might have dulled the senses a bit, but the bill is indeed on it's way to the table.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 11 months ago

Mark, This is a bill that could certainly come due, but it has not yet come due. While it would be nice to have no national debt, from a practical point of view, as long as debt is growing slower than the overall economy then the debt is less of a budget issue than the previous year.

Treasury debt is being sold with historic low interest rates including low rates on 10 and 30 year treasury bonds. If investors thought our debt was out of control and was at risk of default then they would not be willing to buy it at these rates. They could obviously change their minds and then we'd be saying the bill has come due.

As for wealthy people, I think that the lack of any consensus on solutions is why the politics are so gridlocked. From a cynical viewpoint, the 1% have far more to lose if things go bad and the dollar turns into junk. But they have not been so threatened to push both sides to compromise. As much as the 1% might not like paying taxes, a deal involving tax hikes would cost them a small amount compared to their overall wealth at risk.

The US political map is notable that the big wealth producing areas such as Silicon Valley are predominately Democratic because they find the Republican Party position on social issues unacceptable to the diverse talented people central to creating the wealth.

The situation in Washington DC is also complicated by the expiring Bush tax cuts. Congressional Democrats think they have a strong hand because if Republicans won't agree to anything then the tax cuts expire. The Republicans think they have the upper hand because they will get what they want by not raising the debt ceiling. So Congress is not completely ignoring the issue. They have actually been raising the stakes by their prior actions which is the formula for either a compromise or a huge loss for the political party that miscalculates the issues.


mark hartless 4 years, 11 months ago

It could also serve as the catalyst that stops the craving for dollars and US treasuries.

There was a time when "the market" saw nothing wrong with a tulip bulb costing ten times a craftmans annual salary.

I wouldn't own US debt right now for any reason whatsoever. Standing in opposition to US treasuries is a quasi short position vis a vis gold. The run up in gold (priced in dollars) is the markets way of saying US currency is not at all a sure thing.


Scott Wedel 4 years, 11 months ago

Mark, Sure things could to rot, but before that happens then the 1% are going to have their say.

The argument to own treasuries is basically that weak economies could cause deflation. Treasuries are about safety. Treasuries are a safe harbor against deflation which is a threat when reducing leverage. Not that I would treasuries now either.

I also think the bond market is a different market than stock or tulip or alpaca. Bond market is extremely concerned with losing their invested money. When a company is in the news for having troubles then look at the company's bonds The stock's movement won't tell you the company's future, but the bonds will. If you look at companies that have failed then the bonds probably traded as junk early on. Prior to GM declaring bankruptcy, their bonds were trading with a risk factor indicating at least a 50% chance of bankruptcy within 3 months. And so on. Stocks are easier to distort since someone can be financially right on a short, but if too many others also go short then speculators can buy and cause a short squeeze.

Gold is also a funny market because annual production for investment is so little (500 tons) Mark Zuckenberg could buy an entire year's worth of gold production. So investors and central banks deciding to buy or sell a few billion dollars worth of gold can move the market. Doesn't take that many Chinese buying some gold to drive the market up. Gold is down 20% since the peak last year. Hardly likely that the forecast for the US solving debt issues improved that much

I view gold sort of like Douglas Adams in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy where they had a society that used leaves for currency, had rampant inflation since anyone could grab some leaves, so they burned down the trees to make leaves scarce. There is no inherent reason that it is used for investment other than it is scarce and pretty. Sort of like tulips once were in a certain country.

And it is hardly as if US is unique in having issues. The 1% in China have a government that could change it's mind at any moment and take someone's money (no independent judiciary and the rule of law is weak). And China has freedom of religion, freedom of expression and democracy issues to solve. It is not well publicized, but a lot of rich Chinese have set themselves up to be able to be wealthy refuges if things go bad in China. Sort of thing that neighbors in a real nice neighborhood discover when a Chinese family with modest jobs live next door. And then the family member with the money visits whom happens to be this is that Chinese billionaire that is here also making investments not in his name. That sort of stuff is big in California and probably elsewhere. Unlike the Russian money in London or New York, the Chinese have to stay low profile to not get into trouble with their home governments.


rhys jones 4 years, 11 months ago

Tom -- Nice!! Ever had Mandarin Crane? (known there as Hereford from the Heavens) (with white rice) Don't smother the delicate flavor with too much teriyaki. Can't wait!!


Fred Duckels 4 years, 11 months ago

I almost always agree with Rob as he highlights the obvious, in my mind doubters likely have a dog in the fight, an identiry to put on display, or an ideology to nurture.


rhys jones 4 years, 11 months ago

Rob plays petty partisan politics too, unwittingly serving the Federal Reserve's shell game, getting people looking anywhere and everywhere else for the culprit.


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