Wednesday December 11, 2013
Archive - Oct 2013
The Republican Party has reached its Ninotchka period. Ninotchka, you may recall, was the eponymous Soviet commissar played by Greta Garbo in Ernst Lubitsch's 1939 MGM comedy, released one year after Stalin's show trials resulted in the execution of all of the tyrant's more moderate predecessors in the Soviet leadership. "The last mass trials were a great success," Ninotchka notes. "There are going to be fewer but better Russians."
In his great and prophetic novel "1984," George Orwell laid out his vision of what totalitarianism would look like if taken to its logical extreme. The government - in the form of Big Brother - sees all and knows all. The Party rewrites the past and controls the present. Heretics pop up on television screens so they can be denounced by the populace. And the Ministry of Truth propagates the Party's three slogans:
WAR IS PEACE.
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.
The drama surrounding the government shutdown and potential debt default almost obscured the rollout of President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. Both champions and critics of the measure should be grateful.
More than 8 million Americans tried to log on to federal or state exchanges, despite concerted efforts by conservatives to dissuade them. Software glitches foiled many of these inquiries and undermined supporters' claims that the program is ready for prime time.
As if the government shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis weren't harrowing enough, Virginia voters face another source of political misery: the worst candidates for governor in years.
To the rest of the world, the United States looks insane right now.
They're dealing with real problems that their political systems are struggling to solve. The United States' political system is creating fake problems that it may choose to leave unsolved.
Leon Panetta served in Washington with nine presidents, starting with Lyndon Johnson. He has been a member of Congress, Office of Management and Budget director, White House chief of staff, director of Central Intelligence and secretary of defense -- the last two under President Obama. He is a man who knows Washington, and knows how to choose his words. So Panetta's implicit rebuke of the president's hands-off approach to the budget crisis at a breakfast Monday was striking.
A crazy thing is happening in shuttered, dysfunctional Washington: Democrats are pushing back.
The baby boomers are not dead yet. Someday they will be dead, as will be Generation X, the millennials and all the above's great-great-grandchildren -- barring, of course, a medical cure for mortality.
But you'd think the large cohort born between 1946 and 1964 were already consigned to American memory, given many members' oozy nostalgia and declarations of surrender to younger folk. If your time warp is 1968, that's your call. But 2013 is also an interesting time.
"I am not a member of any organized political party," the humorist Will Rogers said. "I am a Democrat."
America really loathes Washington right now, and that's preposterous: Our Town has done nothing wrong.
Washington is a place where hundreds of children couldn't play soccer this past weekend; where cafeteria workers, janitors and secretaries aren't getting paid for who knows how long; where buses and subway trains run empty; where shoe shine guys sit idle; and where Girl Scout troops had to cancel annual camping trips.