President Ignores Congress, Freezes Out Media And Takes It To The Streets
Stephen King once described the pangs of writing when you have no motivation to do so—beyond paycheck and deadline—as shoveling shit sitting down. It was in his book on the art of storytelling titled Danse Macabre, a French allegory for “The Dance Of Death,” which for the purposes of personal survival I chose to take as irony, since most of what you do when you perform this craft is something akin to it. What appears below would be a good example of this. And although this resembles in no way a serviceable premise for a column, it is what it is—as some would say. And for once I will not argue with it.
I began this latest exercise in shit-shoveling at the bitter end of cobbling together notes for what appears to be another countdown for the end of times; a government drama that appears about as frequently as Downton Abbey with all of its serial charm, but none of the Anglo wit. In fact, the wit has gone right out of the thing, along with the purpose, which at some point over the course of a dozen or so columns—it has to be more, but I am loathe to check—it was decided that it had something to do with the will of power. This sounds about right; that is if by some stroke of luck the entire citizenry had been struck by lightning and could only decipher information at a third-grade level.
There are several theories as to why this government of ours has had difficulty putting together a workable or for that matter a non-workable budget. But most of them err on the side of stupid, and although I revel in stupidity, I am bored with it at the moment, so I will ignore all of it and come to my own conclusions, the most pressing being that this is a good old fashioned waiting game. Power plays are lousy with waiting games; fueled by the hope that someone on the other side of the argument will eventually crack under the pressure. If not, the aim of the waiting game is to find a way to keep the waiting going until someone finally does.
Right now our president, who has morphed into a mafia boss, surreptitiously wiping out enemies with a stroke of his pen and then sending his button men through the halls of Congress demanding all kinds of weird shit he will never see, then going on national television under the guise of a State of the Union address to unleash another spate of it. All the while, he performs his best Ronald Reagan, looking over the heads of the media, which is now almost completely shut out of the inner workings of this administration, and ignoring the legislative branch to set out on a tour through the more ideologically friendly corners of the country ginning up support for gun laws, infrastructure projects, immigration reform, education investments, you name it.
The length and breadth of his message was summed up beautifully in the pen-ultimate paragraph of his one-hour gauntlet a week ago: “We are citizens. It’s a word that doesn’t just describe our nationality or legal status. It describes the way we’re made. It describes what we believe. It captures the enduring idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations; that our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others; and that well into our third century as a nation, it remains the task of us all, as citizens of these United States, to be the authors of the next great chapter in our American story.”
That is populism personified; a brilliant overview of the basic Democratic ideas stretching back to FDR; the kind of hit record that makes you crank up the rhythm section and take to the road. But what is all this “we” shit? Did “we” put 13 years of war on the Chinese dime? Did we create flaccid agencies that ignored 20-plus years of illegal banking shenanigans whilst allowing people who could barely scratch together four dimes purchase two-million dollar homes? Did we sign on to ridiculous federal union contracts with little to no leverage? Did we bend over and beg pharmaceutical companies to butt-fist us into oblivion? When were “we” consulted on any of this?
More importantly, where is the political opposition to this?
The Republicans, those not still taking the lash to the dead equine in the rotunda that is Benghazi, are only equipped to stop any of it if they abandon an interest in party preservation. The best they were able to roll out is whatever Marco Rubio was doing in his response to that magnificent chime of political theater. The Florida senator, who only two weeks ago TIME Magazine called “The Republican Savior,” looked like the chum that is usually jettisoned in the opening episodes of American Idol. Wide-eyed and cotton-mouthed, his right-wing message, as stale as Barack Obama’s left-wing one, sounded amateurish in the disjointed way that emanates from new guys wanting to make a difference but having no fucking idea how to go about it.
In fairness to Rubio, he does have four years to run for president, but also as fair to that abysmal showing is citing Obama’s keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention coming a full six months earlier in the process. If memory serves, the soon-to-be-elected Illinois senator sounded as if he were sent from Central Casting to play the winner in a Hollywood film about winners winning.
But winning is a pipe dream for Republicans now. What they need is to survive; survive this newfangled Terminator President, survive the bad press and dismal approval ratings that come from looking as though their idea of governance is to pout.
And one has to wonder why a national tour by a recently victorious second-term president is necessary, beyond his obsession to play Reagan is some biopic in his head, unless it is to back the Republican-run Congress to set up the 2014 mid-terms, when the Democrats hope to gain enough seats on the back of this turd to start implementing the 2012 wish list with little to no friction.
There is, however, the minor annoyance of the senate, which has come around these last months to appear as if it can be the voice of reason. Yet, a scathing story in Politico this week pointed out that many on both sides of the political aisle are continually appalled at how little the president cares about engaging any of them in the process of advancing this massive agenda of his.
And so we wait, and all that is left for those who are paid to comment on it is the danse macabre.
And a-one, and a-two…
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James Campion is the Managing Editor of the Reality Check News & Information Desk and the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus” and “Midnight for Cinderella”