The Mayan Long Count Calendar came to an end yesterday but, contrary to some new age predictions, the world did not. Polls reported overwhelming support for this outcome so there was no discernable fund raising opportunity for either Republicans or Democrats. A rare disappointment for political spinners.
The next “end of the world” prediction comes on December 31 when the US is scheduled to swan dive into financial chaos. Those whose actions might avoid this have set off on vacations: known as recesses on Capitol Hill and as Hawaii vacations in the White House. The only people working over the holidays are the staffers preparing finger-pointing strategies to lay blame on the opponents for any conceivable outcome.
Elsewhere there is a battle over the possible nomination of Chuck Hagel, a former Republican Senator from Nebraska, to replace Leon Panetta as Secretary of Defense. With little experience in the area, I am pretty much a spectator in the world of foreign policy but, as a spectator, I am fast coming to the conclusion that foreign policy fights in Washington look like the scripts for “Mean Girl” movies.
These scripts seem to require both a real story and a smear. In this case, the real story seems to be that Senator Hagel is able to hear both sides of the conversation in the Middle East. The smear is that he is anti-Semitic because he referred to the “Jewish lobby” instead of the preferred “Israel lobby.” To some, the preferred term is not really preferred because they assert that there is no such thing as either of them.
The lesson of Senator Hagel offers interesting insight on the ongoing financial battles. It appears to be entirely irrelevant what you think or do. The only thing that matters is how it can be spun at some time in the future. Irony note: Judge Robert Bork died the other day and his name now defines partisan smear tactics to head off appointments that require Senate confirmation.
Congressman Boehner lost his caucus because too many House Republicans feared the “Mean Girl” scriptwriters would dredge up primary opponents who breathed even more anti-tax fire than did they themselves. Oddly, in what must be a PR mishap, Boehner’s proposal was called “Plan B,” which is also the name for a much-maligned (in conservative circles) morning after pill.
It seems like the best way to think about the events of the next nine days is to imagine that none of our elected officials has the slightest interest in doing anything useful. Instead they need only insulate themselves from the nastiest and most devious of the seventh graders who occupy the Washington playground.