(As usual, the arrangement with syndicators means this column appears here a week after its newspaper release)
DISASTERS REAL AND REALLY UNECESSARY
What a difference. The coordination between government agencies at all levels _ along with the cooperation between officials from both parties _ battling Hurricane Irene provided a stark contrast to the usual unnatural disasters here in Washington.
Look at that attempt by the Obama peeps to roll the Republicans by trying to schedule his big unemployment speech for the same time GOP candidates were scheduled to debate in California. The problem with playing pretend tough guy is that the other side can call your bluff.
Sure enough, the White House wimped out and now the jobs address will take place before a joint session of Congress the next night, just before the opening kickoff of the first game of the NFL season. Once again, we saw our politicians drop the ball.
After the threat of Irene passed, Washington returned to its usual gamesmanship and demagogic hatefulness. It is incessant, obnoxious and monotonous.
In the course of the past few months, respect for our chaotic government has slid into the abyss. Most leaders seem so consumed by their own ambitions and so focused on annihilating the other party that they have caused real damage to the country they claim to serve.
The system is manipulated by narrow interests who have no interest in sharing even small bits of their power or wealth. How else can we explain their absolute resistance to paying a teeny bit more from their private vaults to the United States Treasury in the form of higher taxes?
We have seen and heard one improvement. We now have a plain-spoken head of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, as opposed to the indecipherable Alan Greenspan, who on occasion would mumble a melange of words that totally obscured what he and the Fed were plotting.
Speaking before central bankers at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Bernanke minced no words about the toxic negotiations that bought the country close to a default and "disrupted financial markets and perhaps the economy as well.”
Of course, the Standard and Poor’s rating service had already made that point by lowering the nation's credit rating from the Triple-A which had been a source of pride to the AA+ which brought with it national chagrin.
All of this begs a question: Can the current cast of characters do any better, or should we just resign ourselves to the same burlesque both in Washington and out on the campaign trail? Maybe the rude reception members of Congress got back home and the polls that show their ratings slipping into the asterisk range will make them skittish about putting on such a display of foolishness.
There are actually a few signs of that. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who likes to play the firebrand role, is calling on his volatile troops to work within established budget limits. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is also weighing in. "It is my hope,” he said, “that we will be able to do the basic work of government.”
That translates to: "We're already in enough trouble. Try not to look like clowns."
When Rick Perry calls Washington a "seedy" place, as he did recently on a radio interview, his scorn resonates with Americans who are tired of watching the nation's capitol overrun by the toxic weeds of partisan paralysis.
On those occasions when it works as it's supposed to, we see a professional, competent, coordinated response to a hurricane, like Irene. When it doesn't, as we’ve witnesses in the big marble buildings of our nation's capital, we are left with a disappointment that turns into growing citizen anger. If it continues to spread it could become a storm the nation can't withstand .