DC's Bad Kabuki & the Next Chapter of Trouble – UPDATES

Clearly, what we are getting out of Washington is not leadership, not from anyone. It is spitefulfulness; it is deceit; it is hyperbole unto madness and maneuvering and masterful manipulation, but it’s not leadership.

What it is, is pure Kabuki theater, but less honest.

Or maybe it’s not Kabuki, at all; maybe it’s just a carnival with freakshow, burlesque and a magic act, all brought forward to engage our attention in misdirection. “Look right this way, folks, (no, not there or there, there or there! and for God’s sake don’t look there!) at three solid weeks of political theater, for free! We got yer comedy! Yer melodrama! Yer broken hearts and yer hero entering, stage left! We call it The Comeback Kid!”

A while back I wrote about the painless coup:

Believing that the rest of us, now disillusioned, are no longer clinging to romantic ideals of honor, or truth or nobility, these always-restless First Children, devoted to deconstruction, believe they are about to take down the presidency, the churches, the “old” government and even the “old” media. They expect to put into place something “brand new.” But believe me when I tell you what they are building is older than dirt. And up from it. Which is why they will need their fortresses. Castro lives in one, too.

They’ve been practicing all of this, by the way, perfecting the Art of the Painless Coup so thoroughly that most ordinary folks do not even realize what has occurred.

And misdirection is all a part of it:

. . .on the world stage there stride some masters of the sleight-of-hand and the misdirection – you can recognize them because they are all of a mind, and of a piece, and they are all working different parts of the same trick.

Of course, if you can’t recognize a trick, you can’t prevail against it. And I think the dumb old GOP has no gift for spotting tricks. They and their conflicted, earnest little bills are Charlie Brown, forever giving Lucy the football and trusting that she’ll hold it in place. And lately, taking a beating from the cute little red haired girl with the teapot, too.

Personally, I think the last three weeks of hysteria and hype have been a combination of misdirection and manipulation, aided by a press that obediently hyperventilates on command. None of what we’re seeing in Washington had to happen this way, and it should not have happened this way unless some players — the most skilled players — wanted it to.

And why would they want it to? I suppose so the president who keeps complaining that he’d prefer to bypass congress, routinely considers it and has proven that he will, given half a chance, can get that chance. And thereby “save the nation.”

Of course he’ll bypass the congress; he has indicated his preference to simply rule, rather than lead, from the very start. “I won.”

Ed Morrissey disagrees: Would a man who lacks the intestinal fortitude to publish his own written plan of a debt-ceiling compromise take those risks? Not a chance.

The GOP has been played like a fiddle, and divided, too. Next comes the conquering. And then, of course, the photo of the victors, including Nancy With the Laughing Face, who will giggle to the press that she anticipates re-parading her clown gavel.

I really, really hope I’m wrong. But from the start I’ve been thinking that this nonsense is not going to end well.

Tonight I re-read this old piece from Peggy Noonan, which was actually the inspiration for my piece linked above. This is what she wrote:

A few weeks ago I was reading Christopher Lawford’s lovely, candid and affectionate remembrance of growing up in a particular time and place with a particular family, the Kennedys, circa roughly 1950-2000. It’s called “Symptoms of Withdrawal.” At the end he quotes his Uncle Teddy. Christopher, Ted Kennedy and a few family members had gathered one night and were having a drink in Mr. Lawford’s mother’s apartment in Manhattan. Teddy was expansive. If he hadn’t gone into politics he would have been an opera singer, he told them, and visited small Italian villages and had pasta every day for lunch. “Singing at la Scala in front of three thousand people throwing flowers at you. Then going out for dinner and having more pasta.” Everyone was laughing. Then, writes Mr. Lawford, Teddy “took a long, slow gulp of his vodka and tonic, thought for a moment, and changed tack. ‘I’m glad I’m not going to be around when you guys are my age.’ I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because when you guys are my age, the whole thing is going to fall apart.’ ”

Mr. Lawford continued, “The statement hung there, suspended in the realm of ‘maybe we shouldn’t go there.’ Nobody wanted to touch it. After a few moments of heavy silence, my uncle moved on.”

Lawford thought his uncle might be referring to their family–that it might “fall apart.” But reading, one gets the strong impression Teddy Kennedy was not talking about his family but about . . . the whole ball of wax, the impossible nature of everything, the realities so daunting it seems the very system is off the tracks.

And–forgive me–I thought: If even Teddy knows . . .

Our elites, our educated and successful professionals, are the ones who are supposed to dig us out and lead us. I refer specifically to the elites of journalism and politics, the elites of the Hill and at Foggy Bottom and the agencies, the elites of our state capitals, the rich and accomplished and successful of Washington, and elsewhere. I have a nagging sense, and think I have accurately observed, that many of these people have made a separate peace. That they’re living their lives and taking their pleasures and pursuing their agendas; that they’re going forward each day with the knowledge, which they hold more securely and with greater reason than nonelites, that the wheels are off the trolley and the trolley’s off the tracks, and with a conviction, a certainty, that there is nothing they can do about it.

I suspect that history, including great historical novelists of the future, will look back and see that many of our elites simply decided to enjoy their lives while they waited for the next chapter of trouble. And that they consciously, or unconsciously, took grim comfort in this thought: I got mine. Which is what the separate peace comes down to, “I got mine, you get yours.”

I think the “next chapter of trouble” is here.

UPDATED (thanks, Frank):

“The fact that we are here today to debate raising America ’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America ’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.”
– Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

UPDATE II: Boehner’s latest plan is online. What is this, the fourth or fifth GOP plan made public. And still zero coming from Reid or Obama?

There is an Art to Good Politics

Let’s get this party started!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • don singleton

    friscoeddie If the Reid bill is not Reid’s but McConnell’s why as I watch are the GOP house reps voting it down?

    Because they don’t like McConnell’s bill; they never did

    I think Granny will not receive SS

    The lockbox contains plenty of Federal Bonds. The government can’t sell new bonds but the SS Admin can cash in one they have and the Government can sell it and pay Granny

    GOP has already suggested we pay the Chinese Gov. and investors their interest first

    The 14th amendment says that too. We cant borrow more but we must pay what we borrowed

    Granny has no treasuries

    So they have really been lying and the lockbox does not contain treasuries? I know they are paying out more than they take in, and are not adding more treasuries, but it is supposed to be solvent until 2034.

  • James

    (friscoeddie said – “James your Reid McConnell bill just failed.. Boehner brought it up needing 2/3 majority to pass .. giving it a snowball’s chance in Hell.”)

    It’s not “my” bill eddie- it’s Reid’s. And the majority of Conservatives never liked McConnells bill.

    What’s wrong with a 2/3 majority vote?

  • James

    Ah yes.

    Good Ole Dingy Harry, he never misses a trick.

    The Devil is always in the details with the Dems, and here’s a key Devil that was in Harry Reid’s Bill- the deficit-reduction targets in the bill were completely basically unenforcable. In other words more Kabuki Theater from the Dems:

    “But one item it did not contain — and which a number of fence-sitting Republicans have hinted could ease them into a vote — was some sort of “trigger.”

    A trigger is an enforcement mechanism written into the law in case Congress does not meet the deficit-reduction targets. It would guide a committee of 12 lawmakers (in effect a “super Congress”), helping it bring the budget into line. Republicans think a trigger would give that committee “teeth.”

    Choosing to include no trigger at all is a gamble on Reid’s part. For the past few days, the main sticking point in discussions was over how lawmakers would give that committee the power to ensure its recommendations are enacted.

    House Republicans added that level of enforcement by including only a short-term debt ceiling hike, saying that a second could be passed if and when the targets were being met (and a Constitutional amendment that balanced the budget was passed).

    Democrats scampered around, looking for an alternative. In the end, they chose nothing at all, determining that there were simply no grounds on which they and the GOP could be satisfied — at least for now.

    “There is a closet full of triggers that people have suggested,” Reid said, adding that he had lengthy conversations with Obama administration officials about them, but had no partner from the GOP side.

    “We talked for an hour and a half on different triggers. I came to a conclusion we are negotiating with ourselves,” Reid said.

    This doesn’t necessarily rule out the possibility triggers will find a way back into the legislation.

    Rather, a trigger could be offered at the last minute as a means of winning a crucial GOP vote. But starting with nothing at all remains a gamble — practically inviting Senate Republicans to shout that Democrats aren’t serious about structural reforms to programs like Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security.”

  • friscoeddie

    A No deal is almost getting to be a sure thing. Obama will be forced to use 14th amendment so the USA is not made a worldwide fool. TP will call for impeachment that the GOP wanted on the birther issue starting in 2009.. 2012 will be a mess. Dems win WH, House & Senate in 2012. Taxes on millionaires/billionaires who have no jobs/wages and live off capital gains taxed @ 15% and no tax on interest on Muni Bonds will have to start paying off their fare share of the debt that the GOP has run up. Obama’s share of the debt was to rescue the USA from GOP depression. DOW has risen 95% since a month after Obama took over. That’s the hope folks and jobs, not the lay-offs following the GOP de-fault.
    Greta… devil is not involved .. he flunked economics and political science.

  • Joseph Marshall

    Don, we already have about 1 in 28 of us in the pen. Put everybody who makes a bad judgment and defaults on a loan in, or makes a bad judgment and approves a loan that goes toxic in, or had their bank fail because of a wrong decision, or even a wrong set of decisions, in, and we’ll need so many prison guards that we won’t be able to fill the seats in the State Legislature.

    Besides which, the only people who would dare to work in a bank or apply for a loan would be those who had some relevant prior experience–maybe in breaking and entering or crack dealing.

    If I may say so, I’m afraid your ideas about how the world should work are just a little too boldface.

    Let me give you a suggestion. Go to the Federal listings in the blue pages in your phone book and write down the number of agencies listed that actually give you personally some kind of tangible benefit as a citizen. Then list next to them the number of things the government does to you personally as a citizen that you don’t like. Then see if the second list is longer that the first.

    By the way, I invite anyone who reads this to do that, too. And while you’re at it you might do the same thing for your state and local government. It will give you a far better sense of what government is about than you will get on any blog.

  • don singleton

    Joseph I did not say “everybody who makes a bad judgment and defaults on a loan”; I said If you took out a loan, and signed a mortgage you could not possibly afford to pay, you were committing fraud, and the bank or mortgage company that let you get by with it did not do their job. A big difference and it involves intent

  • don singleton

    And I did not say “makes a bad judgment and approves a loan that goes toxic in”; I said Whoever approved the loan should have been fired, and whoever bundled that toxic loan with a bunch of good loans and sold the bundle to another bank also committed fraud. Again, a big difference. The one that made the bad loan should be fired, the one that tries to hide it in a bunch of good loans is the one who should go to jail

  • James

    friscoeddie, you’re in a dream world.

    If Barry attempts to use the 14th Amendment his chances of a second term are shot.

    The Dems strong-armed ObamaCare into law with procedural gimmicks and backroom bribes, and as time has passed and the repercussions have been felt, the polls have clearly shown that the majority of people do not want that disaster. So if Barry goes for another power grab with the 14 Amendment- he’s through. I hope he tries it.

    The Dems had a chance to address this issue last year when they controlled both houses along with the White House, but they refused. They wanted to wait for the Republicans to take control of the House so they (along with their cronies in the media) could intimidate them with the “if you Republicans don’t allow us to raise the debt ceiling you’ll be starving granny meme” and thereby insuring that the Republicans would be forced to capitulate into sharing the blame for the Dems out of control spending.

  • Barbara Peters

    It almost seems as if the Tea Party is trying to paint the President into a corner so he feels he has no choice but to use the 14th Amendment option to save the country. Then they can impeach him or run around the country screaming that he is a dictator. But he won’t and the Tea Party’s insurrection will cause a great deal of pain and suffering if the moderate Republicans (if their are any left) do not act quickly to take their party back. To go back to Elizabeth’s original post – this is not theater – it is a very real insurection by the Tea Party. They are moving to take power away from the federal government – what better way than to control, curtail and handcuff the government’s spending power. This will not empower the individual – it will empower the global corporations. We need a strong federal government. I agree there is waste and there should be program cuts – but the Tea Party is going beyond program cuts and reducing the deficit.

  • James

    (Barbara Peters said – “It almost seems as if the Tea Party is trying to paint the President into a corner so he feels he has no choice but to use the 14th Amendment option to save the country.”)

    Well if Barry was truly interested in saving the country he would agree to cut his out of control spending that’s currently destroying it.

    See Barb? There’s his other option.

    But he’s a narcissistic little man-child so I hope he attempts the 14th Amendment.

  • James

    Yes Barb,

    The TeaParty wants to starve granny (even though many of them are grannies) and they want to empower those eeeeevil rich global corporations (did I mention that many of them are grannies?) and they want to take away wheel chairs from crippled kids, kick homeless people, and eat puppies and kittens for breakfast.


    Did that just about cover all the Liberal demagogue talking points?

    Or do you need to rush back over to the Puffington Post so they can tell you what you should think about all of this?

  • James

    For the first TWO YEARS of Obama’s term- the Dems controlled BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS and operated without a budget.

    Tell me Barb, friscoeddie, Joseph, et al- why didn’t the Dems balance the budget during those long two years?


  • http://www.xavierz.blogspot.com Xavier

    “Paint the President into a corner”? This is a man who at the Blair House meetings last year confessed that he was unable to grasp the distinction between a collision and a liability automobile insurance policy. The man who submitted a budget last winter so divorced from economic reality that he couldn’t get even the Socialist Sanders to vote for it, and who suffered the unprecedented rebuke of a unanimous Senate vote against his budget proposal. And now he wants us all to adopt the pretense that he harbors some deep knowledge of economic policy, and can be trusted to present a clear way forward. The idea is absurd.

    The enormous general increases in tax rates that the Reid-Obama proposal assumes and insists on to meet their stated goals would be devastating to families and individuals already struggling. The lack of compassion, even cruelty, of it is astounding.

  • friscoeddie

    Joe Walsh, Catholic father of 5 and GOP/ TP House Representative from Illinois deadbeats on over $100,00 in child support and exes payments. Yet He can’t get enough of TV time telling people as a TP he wants to protect his children and us from debt. The interesting thing, he knows that this hypocrisy is out there ready to mock him… yet he maintains a high profile. John Edwards did the same. Are we electing sociopaths and where is our moral radar?

  • Joseph Marshall

    he would agree to cut his out of control spending that’s currently destroying it

    James, the President cannot spend any more than the Congress budgets and appropriates the money for. What he is spending is what has already been approved by Congress by at least some continuing resolution, if nothing else.

    If the Speaker could get his own flock in order, show that he has some control of his party, and cut a deal that will stick, and not come unravelled in his own caucus, this mess would already be over.

    Under the circumstances the Speaker cannot reliably negotiate with anybody. If the Tea Party wants to completely control the House, they should dump the Speaker and elect one of their own. They want what they want and they will not stand any compromise with what they want.

    Okay. Then quit bothering us, and let the default happen. Because you’re not going to get everything you want. Period.

    That simply will stop all spending and we all can get a good clear look at what “spending cuts” without tax increases will mean. It’s time we injected some reality into the voters about why we have a Federal Government by turning it off for a month or two. Let them eat the increased interest rates that a credit downgrade will cause once the pain of no government gets so bad that they absolutely demand it be turned back on again.

    Then let them make a choice in November.

    I’m ready for it, and every last dime I have comes from Uncle Sugar.

  • Barbara Peters

    James it is my opinion that your use of the Rush Limbaugh phrase “man-child” to refer to the President of the United States is offensive and in my opinion it is a racist slur. What is a “man-child” – a boy. It is my opinion that you owe Elizabeth and every person who will read your offensive comment a retraction and an apology. I will give you the benefit of the doubt that you did not intend offense and did not understand the import of what you were saying. However, I will no longer read any of your comments or take anything you say seriously.

    [Just to interject here, while I have a warning in my comments section about calling presidents (past and present) by ugly or obscene nicknames, "manchild" did not fall into that category when people were using it against Dubya, and it does not fall into that category now. And since "manchild" (with or without the hyphen) was used pretty frequently re GWB I don't see how it's racist in this case. In both cases I believe people (including Maureen Dowd, who also liked "boy prince" re Bush) were using the phrase to express their thoughts about a president's maturity, vision and ability. -admin]

  • http://www.xavierz.blogspot.com Xavier

    I’m not familiar with Mr. Limbaugh’s use of the phrase “manchild,” but would have thought it a reference to the justly famous autobiographical work by Claude Brown, a remarkable and powerful narrative and evocation of time and place. There would seem to be a parallel drawn with Mr. Obama’s own autobiographical work Dreams From My Father. I can’t guarantee that I’m correct in describing the possible allusion, but it’s a great deal more than plausible and has the advantage of not hurling charges of racism on a questionable pretext.

  • James

    Barb, I’m sorry you’re offended that Obama is a narcissistic man-child. A man-child simply means an emotionally immature adult male.

    And I’m doubly sorry you had to sink to level demagoguing my comment with a ridiculous accusation of racism.

    Oh and, I still never got an answer from you Obama-worshiping Liberals, so here’s that pesky question again:

    For the first TWO YEARS of Obama’s term- the Dems controlled BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS and operated without a budget.

    Tell me Barb, friscoeddie, Joseph, et al- why didn’t the Dems balance the budget during those long two years?


  • James

    From MerriamWebsterDictionary.com

    Man-Child – A male child; a boy; a son.

    From UrbanDictionary.com:

    1. Man child – a grown man who is very immature, therefore considered a man child.

    2. Man child – A man child is a male who is over the age of 25, who still lives as though he is a juvenile. Many man-children are not gainfully employed, and survive off of the financial support of their enabling parents. Heavy video-game addiction to fantasy games such as World of Warcraft are key to the man-child.

    3. Man Child – A Man Child is a fully-grown male that acts like a baby. A Man Child usually whines, complains, and thinks everything is unfair. Man Children in the workplace can be recognized as one who is always complaining about the rules and/or shows too much emotion ex. Crying.


    Nice try trying to shout me down by demagoguing me Barb, but no dice.

  • James

    From Investors Business Daily:

    Five Big Debt Debate Lies

    Posted 07/29/2011 06:37 PM ET

    Transparency: After months of dire warnings about not raising the debt ceiling, the public is still not convinced it’s a big deal. Maybe that’s because they’ve been repeatedly lied to about what’s at stake.

    [James, when you post long excerpts (or sometimes entire articles) you put me at risk to copyright problems. Please just put the url you want to direct a reader toward, and a smallish excerpt, if you can. When you have a chance, I'd appreciate it if you'd go back to your other comments that cut-and-paste articles and edit them accordingly, thanks. I don't have time to do it, and if you can't, then sorry but I'll just have to delete them along with any other posted "articles" by other commenters. -admin]

  • cathyf

    Joseph, you continuously characterize keeping the debt limit at $14.294 trillion some sort of “default”. What exactly do you think will be defaulted on? No US Treasury Bond has any contractual stipulation that the Congress keep borrowing money when they spend all the money that they have already borrowed. Each bond merely spells out the terms by which interest and principal for that bond will be paid back over time.

    Suppose the Jones family maxes out their credit limits on 5 credit cards. They don’t apply for any more credit cards, and they don’t apply for any other loans. They simply stop spending so much every month, and every month they have enough money after paying their essential bills that they send each credit card company the minimum payment. The Jones family has certainly not defaulted in anything — they have no obligation to go out to eat at expensive restaurants, no obligation to buy more clothes, to buy ever more and new electronic gadgets, etc.

    We got in to a huge financial mess in 2008 because for years the government used the CRA (Community Reinvestment Act) to force lenders to loan money to mortgage applicants who were poor credit risks. The problem is that no US legislature or court has jurisdiction to force people in other countries to loan money to governments that are poor credit risks in the same way that Fannie and Freddie could threaten to use the CRA to close down banks that refused to make mortgages to people who couldn’t possibly pay them back. We are not yet at the “owe so much that we can’t possibly pay it back” like Greece is, but the way you get there is to keep borrowing and borrowing and owing more and more. And then it doesn’t matter what the debt limit is. Because our creditors are not stupid. They will cut us off long before they get to the point where any idiot knows that any “loan” that they give us won’t be paid back. In the getting from here to there, our creditors will demand higher and higher interest rates, which will be a vicious cycle since we can’t afford the spending in the first place, and we will have to borrow more and more faster and faster just to keep up with the interest rates which are rising because we are borrowing more and more faster and faster.

    We are still at the point where we get to choose how much we will borrow. If we borrow enough that no one will lend us any more, then the statutory debt limit will just become a moot point. We’ve got to do something NOW before it’s no longer under our control. Look at how quickly Ireland went from Tiger to Begger — we are so much bigger than them that when it comes it will come much faster and much harder.