Governor Pawlenty, former GOP presidential contender, recently lamented to John Stewart that politicians today are expected to be entertaining as well as smart and well-versed in policy. Pawlenty was vilified by the media for presenting a boring, low-key (if not slow) image to voters. He was proclaimed, Not Presidential Material, his fate sealed.
If he’s right, then the House of Representatives is where the ambitious politician first learns to be a clown. Nancy Pelosi acted out a caricature of ‘San Francisco liberal’ well enough. Stunts such as holding out for the ‘public option’ in the 2009 health care bill debate and feasting the Dali Lama worked well enough. And Representative Wiener provided ample fodder for late show comedians, comic strip writers and general debouches for over a month. His art was letting silly things he did leak out slowly and retain public interest. Republicans learned how to play barking dog and straying cat during Pelosi’s reign as Speaker of the House.
But nothing before comes close to the master class in buffoonery that Republicans have generously shown us since taking charge of Congress last January. The central shtick in the Republican repertoire is a twist on the Key Stone cops. Obama articulates a policy and right away each Republican House member turns and dashes himself against the Obama wall they ask us all to imagine. Sometimes the leadership, Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor, trip over each other in their enthusiasm to lunge without thinking.
Magic tricks are a big hit in Congress. Michele Bachman never misses a chance to change a good fact into nonsensical fiction. The two Rands delight other Tea Party backers in storytelling and fantasy, although they can be a bit morbid and their calls for no government period shows them to be radical anarchists at heart. (I think Lenin called Bukharin an ‘infantile leftist’.) Newt, father progenitor, continues spitting out bombs to shock and awe his audience but most end up being duds, so no one pays him much mind these days. Not even the worst GOP anti-Muslim bigots really believe Islam is taking over America.
So far, President Obama, trying to be the President of all Americans, has humored, if not spoiled Republican House members into thinking their way is the only way. Now, however, President Obama is brandishing a gauntlet, warning that he’ll veto any deficit package without tax increases on the wealthy.
When will the show-down come? I can’t wait! Will President Obama really jack Republicans to the wall? Have all his compromises been bait leading up to this last Great Battle of Wills? Will Boehner be eating dirt for dinner? After all, Obama puts on a good show, too.