Here in Podunk, look out the window and the weather is bad. Look at the TV and the news is bad. Still, I’ve been trying to obey the injunction of the Billie Holliday song by spending each day wending my way along, trying to get some fun out of life.
I’ve been reading my way through a stack of Christmas books, including the last half-dozen volumes of Anthony Powell’s “A Dance to the Music of Time.” One memorable moment occurs when a society dame learns that a pompous, disagreeable, cold fish MP will wed a notorious vixen who has made a career of ruining men for sport. The woman is stunned that “Titania is marrying Bottom.”
I’ve also been attending a course on the Crusades when it isn’t snowed out, and have been catching up on 2014 movies late in arriving in the provinces, like “Whiplash.” I’m still waiting for “Mr. Turner,” which has turned into the Godot of films.
Lately, however, it has been hard to avert my eyes from the Washington farce being presented by the Republican Congress. Remember how we were assured after the November election that a triumphant GOP majority would show what governing looks like. That was a funny idea, but in practice it’s been hilarious.
So far it looks like the same old bickering and gridlock, but the conflict is now less against the Democrats than an intra-party uncivil war. It turns out some Republicans want to govern, but many just want to bash Obama, bloviate and be holier than their Republican brethren. So they sent a bill to the President demanding he approve the Keystone pipeline, knowing full well he’d veto it and knowing they lacked the votes to override. The Keystone this reminds us of is not the pipeline, but the Kops.
Similarly, they are irate that the President would have the effrontery to address immigration while they refuse to legislate on the subject. They’ve already taken him to court on the issue, but that’s insufficient. So, to teach him a lesson, the Suicide Wing of the party decided to refuse to fund Homeland Security until he backs down.
The party leadership promised they wouldn’t shut down the government or force Homeland Security to defend us manned by unpaid temps, but lacking the guts to oppose the Suicide Wing that may be exactly what happens. Get ready, Jihadis, the Republicans are making your job easier.
As if this weren’t enough, the Republicans have simultaneously decided to demonstrate that their incompetence in Congress will be matched in the executive branch in 2016 if you choose one of their presidential hopefuls. They gathered last week to cozy up to the biggest government-haters on the right at the annual CPAC coven.
Rand Paul was CPAC’s prom queen once again, winning the straw vote by suggesting that government should do next to nothing – don’t require children to be vaccinated, get rid of the Federal Reserve and most regulations, be even less aggressive abroad than Obama. That last notion will play less well with the hawkish neocon branch of the party, a group that never met a war it didn’t like.
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was singing their song when he gave a swashbuckling, red meat “pay any price, bear and burden…to assure the success of liberty” speech. We all recall how well that worked out in Vietnam. But it got Walker second place in the straw poll at CPAC. Unfortunately for him, he again undercut his success when he went off script, where he invariably becomes a Palinesque gaffe machine. This time he said it was clear he had what it took to destroy ISIS because he’d beaten up on the union of Wisconsin schoolmarms.
Chris Christie, straight from the private jets and skyboxes of his billionaire backers, tried to pretend he’s a populist, but friends of the forgotten man rarely spend so much time telling them so sit down and shut up.
Donald Trump tried to sell the assembly on the power of positive thinking. Apparently all of America’s ills can be solved by repeating, “I think I can, I think I can.” Or, I think Trump can. Few at CPAC seemed to think anything remotely like that.
And speaking of also-rans, Jeb Bush, favored by 8 percent of CPAC, tried to thread an impossible needle. He argued that as president he would not be as nice as one previous Bush, as stupid as another nor as liberal as either. But as a candidate he’d be more likeable than Hillary, and just as wired into into the fat-cat donor network as all of the above. The last may be true but failed to reassure me.
So, after emulating Jefferson and trembling for my country, I pulled the drapes to block out the sight of snow, turned off the TV to blot out politics and went back to fiction which mercifully really is a lot less strange than the truth.Yet even there, CPAC seemed to live.
In book ten of “A Dance…” we meet Roddy Cutts, MP, who could easily be mistaken for any of the CPAC crowd. He has “the forceful manner, half hectoring, half subservient, common to representatives of all political parties, together with the politician’s endemic hallmark of getting hold of the wrong end of the stick.” It’s as if Scott or Ted, Joe or Hillary had been made up by an English satirist 60 years ago. Ars Longa, Vita Brevis.