For the past year, conservatives have used specious, callous, and occasionally offensive arguments against extending unemployment benefits for jobless Americans, but former Delaware GOP Senate nominee Christine O’Donnell took this hyperbole over the top last night. O’Donnell is forming a new issues-oriented political action committee called “Christine PAC,” and at a launch event for the group in Virginia yesterday, O’Donnell called the extension of jobless benefits a “tragedy,” comparing it to Pearl Harbor and the death of Elizabeth Edwards:
“Today marks a lot of tragedy. … Tragedy comes in threes,” O’Donnell said. “Pearl Harbor, Elizabeth Edwards’s passing and Barack Obama’s announcement of extending the tax cuts, which is good, but also extending the unemployment benefits.”
O’Donnell continued: “The reason I say this is a tragedy is because his announcement of economic recovery was more of a potpourri of sound bytes. It’s like he took a little bit of what each party wanted and put it together. It’s not a solid plan constructed on sound economic principles.”
O’Donnell immediately tried to walk back her characterization of unemployment benefits as a “tragedy,” telling reporters after her remarks, “That’s not what I meant at all.” “If we’re going to extend the jobless benefits we have got to cut spending programs and that’s the flaw in his announcement,” she said. “That’s the tragedy.”
O’Donnell, who has spent much of her adulthood unemployed, appears to have avoided collecting unemployment insurance herself thanks to her perennial campaigns for public office. “Staffers on her previous campaign for Senate and O’Donnell’s own financial filings reveal that the unemployed O’Donnell used campaign funds to pay for meals, gas, bowling trips, and personal rent, even long after the campaign had ended,” CBS reported in September. Indeed, her use of campaign funds for personal expenses — she even used donations to purchase a mattress — drew scrutiny from U.S. Attorney’s office and the FEC. But not everyone can repeatedly run for office to subsidize their unemployment.
As ThinkProgress noted yesterday, a number of leading Republicans are vigorously opposed to the 13 month extension of jobless benefits included in the tax compromise between the White House and congressional Republicans, and are even threatening to oppose the entire package because of it.