(As usual, this column appears here a week after its newspaper release, per the arrangement with the syndicators)
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FOR RELEASE TUESDAY, MAY 31, 2011
THE UNREAL REALITY SHOW
BY BOB FRANKEN
With Sarah Palin now playing her maybe/maybe-not mind games, it's easy to forget how Donald Trump did his dance on the heads of those of us desperate for an interesting political narrative, no matter how flimsy. In fact, after pulling to a halt, The Donald has restarted his trip through egoland, even while The Sarah takes her bus ride through the same territory.
Trump is now saying he “won't rule out” reversing course and might run for president after all. Presumably, that decision will come right about the time his “Apprentice” show begins a new season and needs some promotion. What a shame, because his exit statement actually contained some food for thought. Consider this line: “I will not shy away from expressing the opinions that so many of you share yet don't have a medium through which to articulate.”
Yes, the word “shy” in connection with Trump is ludicrous, but his point that so many of us don't feel like anyone in the politics biz is taking up our cause certainly hits home. How many polls do we need to demonstrate that?
Look no further than the current foolishness about the debt ceiling. Vice President Joe Biden says that his bipartisan group of negotiators is closing in on budget cuts “well above $1 trillion pretty quick.” There are no specifics about which desperate needs of the poor, the young and the infirm are on the table, while tax hikes for the rich are kept off by adamant Republicans.
As for the elderly, GOP leaders still are defiant about their plan to gut Medicare despite the battering they're taking. Even after the issue wrenched an ultrasafe district from his party, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says it is “still on the table.”
This unmellow drama is largely a contrivance, because the Republicans and Democrats could have reached an agreement on time if someone hadn't told them that the delinquency wouldn't occur immediately after the May 15 deadline. Instead, the United States government will have to play a financial shell game while partisan drama kings and queens get their maximum attention and scare us all to death.
Nothing will happen until probably sometime in August, when the news networks put up those hokey countdown clocks to show we're only seconds away from disaster. Only then, as this proud nation is just about to slam into the shame of financial default, will our elected cavalry troops ride to the rescue and save us with a compromise they could have reached literally months beforehand.
For now, you have President Barack Obama still insisting he wants clean legislation, meaning a higher borrowing limit with no budget cuts. He knows full well that isn't going to happen, but by demanding it, he gets to maintain the charade of tough bargainer.
He goes farce to farce with the Republicans, who are all over the place because they have to be. Not only must they keep Democrats confused with an olive branch in one hand and a club in the other, but they have to make sure that their extremists don't dissolve the process with their acid tea. Some of them even insist default won't be a big deal. Then there's Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who argues that it would be a good thing, telling POLITICO, “By defaulting on the debt, in the short and long term, it could benefit us to go through a period of crisis that forces politicians to make decisions.”
So who needs Donald Trump or Sarah Palin and their narcissistic reality-show politics? We get the same thing from our elected cast of characters. Except that it's grim reality.
© 2011 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.