A Confederacy of Dunces

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We are going down. Assume the position, please, and kiss your asses goodbye. Smoke billows from the engines; the wings have been clipped; air howls as the nose plunges earthward. And the pilots did it on purpose. They took their eyes off the target. They dropped their hands into their laps and unplugged the navigation equipment.

Why? You might ask. Why in God’s name would they do such a thing? And why do it now?

Well, your humble narrator might respond, security. The name of the game here is security. Not financial security. Not the security that would rise if banks lifted restrictions on loans—either personal loans or interbank loans. The security here is more sinister, more solipsistic than one might assume—or, it should be said, than one would have assumed under ordinary circumstances. But these, my friends, are extraordinary circumstances. These, oh, my dear, lovely friends, are grim times. And the American political system is showing its true colors. Five weeks away from the elections, American politicians are mortified, terrified that their respective parties will lose; terrified that they won’t get their way. And the politicking has infected the bailout plan—one that your humble narrator, while critical [extremely critical], recognizes must be passed. And, because of this, because these rotten, ugly politicians are more concerned with job
security, with maintaining their position on top of the garbage heap, they’ve jeopardized the United States economy.

In a quote captured by Julie Hirschfeld Davis of the Associated Press, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said, after the vote collapsed, “Americans are angry, and so are my colleagues. They don’t want to have to vote for a bill like this. But I have concerns about what this means for the American people, what it means for our economy, and what it means for people’s jobs. I think that we need to renew our efforts to find a solution that Congress can support.”

They don’t want to have to vote for a bill like this. That line sums it up, Ladies and Gentlemen. So pay attention: re-read it. They don’t want to have to vote for a bill like this.

What Boehner means is that he and his colleagues didn’t sign up for a game this serious. No, no, no, my friends. They signed up for the long run. They signed up to snag votes and to attain and retain a cushy seat on top the golden ladder. They don’t want to have to make serious decisions carrying the potential to issue enormous concussive waves. They’re holding a grenade and pretending it’s an apple, and, when told that it’s a grenade, they toss it around in a good old-fashioned game of hot potato, afraid that it will blow up in their faces.

But the pin is missing. Like it or not the grenade will explode. The objective congress assumed wasn’t to diffuse the grenade; it was to minimize the damage from the resulting explosion.

The stakes were high and our elected Incompetents blew it. Whether a bill is passed in two days or in two weeks—and, rest assured, a bill will pass—congress’ failure to pass the first bailout bill will go down as one of the great blunders in the history of the United States of America. And the blunder was strictly tactical.

The strategy, of course, will remain the same. The tactics, however, must be shifted. The vote that defeated the bill will force the ejection of the haphazard Fabian maneuver. Now, the initiative must be seized, and it must be seized in the greater interest of the United States and her citizens. If the vicious sleaze-ball politics and partisan mudslinging continues to thrive between the walls, the next bailout will fail. And the aperture will contract, leaving the future more hazy and uncertain than it already is.

In the ensuing days, as Wall Street fluctuates—and it will; in the immediate future we’ll see some gains and some losses—blame will be tossed about, as it should. But the animosity has to be cauterized before meetings resume. Going into the new meetings with the mentality that surfaced after the bill was defeated will help no one.

On leaving the chambers as smoke from the bill smoldered, politicians crossed aisles and united to back one tactic, albeit the wrong tactic: name-calling. Mud was flung and men and women were condemned and hung out to dry.

As votes racked up, it became apparent that the bill would not pass. Confusion swelled the faces of economists, stockbrokers, and politicians the nation over. And when the end arrived, it landed on a lopsided vote: 228-205. Politicians who’d built a career on safe betting and milquetoast legislation walked away defiant—tails between their legs, sweat beading on their brows, and confused smiles warping their faces.

But first:

A Strange Interlude.

A withered creature steps up to a podium, wearing a drab outfit. Beaded jewelry slung around its neck and dripping from its ears, the creature spoke in airy, staccato breaths. Its oratory skills lacking, it swung its arm as it spoke, pointing and poking as though playing an imaginary piano. Its speech hinged on two points, each serving its own means.

“When was the last time anyone ever asked you for seven hundred billion dollars?” It asked, speaking with forced concern and importance, as if it’s a parent admonishing a rebellious child. “It’s a staggering figure and many questions have arisen from that request. And we have been hearing a very informed debate on all sides of this issue here today. I’m proud of the debate.”

But, it continues,

“Seven hundred billion dollars—a staggering number; but only a part of the cost of the failed Bush economic policies to our country; policies that were built on budget recklessness. When President Bush took office, he inherited President Clinton’s surpluses – four years in a row budget surpluses on a trajectory of 5.6 trillion dollars in surplus. And with his reckless economic policies, within two years, he had turned it around. And now eight years later, the foundation of that fiscal irresponsibility, combined with an ‘anything goes’ economic policy, has taken us to where we are today.

“They claim to be free-market advocates when it’s really an anything goes mentality—no regulation, no supervision, no discipline. And if you fail, you will have a golden parachute and the taxpayer will bail you out.
Those days are over. The party is over in that respect.

“Democrats believe in a free market. We know that it can create jobs, it can create wealth, many good things in our economy. But, in this case, in this unbridled form, as encouraged and supported by the Republicans — some Republicans, not all — it has created not jobs, not capital, it has created chaos.”

That creature is, in fact, a woman, and her name is Nancy Pelosi, the Speaker of the House. Speaking before the vote, she presumably sought to deliver a memorable speech, full of sound bites her party and constituents would use once the bill passed—quotes, as it were, from an historic occasion.

Once the bill was defeated, however, the Creature of the House experienced immediate blowback from the speech. Republicans blamed her rhetoric for the defeat. But, and your humble narrator shall unleash on the Republicans in a moment, to say that her speech dirtied the toilet water would be to miss the point.

Nancy Pelosi failed. There are no two ways around it. As Speaker of the House, her job is to set the agenda and to rally the troops. With ninety-three democrats voting against the bailout plan, Pelosi let down her constituents. She alone should have exerted the influence; she alone should have tried to shore up those votes. Had more democrats voted for the bill, it could have passed without a single dissenting republican voting in the positive. The failure is hers. This game, as they say, was hers to lose, and she lost it. And her constituents should crucify her for this. At the very least, they should chase the withered creature down dark alleys at night carrying lit torches and signs reading, No Confidence.

But what about the Republicans? Assuming their absurd claims hold water, that they voted against the bill because Pelosi’s speech hurt their feelings and enraged them, they, too, should be chased out of Washington by angry townsfolk carrying torches and rusty, metal rakes. To put your own feelings and party politics ahead of the nation’s at such a crucial time is unpardonable. If what they say is true, that so many Republican’s voted against the bill as a form of protest, then they have doomed their party.

The Republicans are already skating on thin ice in this country, and to make such a monumentally callous and childish move is an appalling pockmark on the face of American politics. That such ridiculous piffle got uttered is a national embarrassment.

“I do believe that we could have gotten there [passed the bill] today,” said John Boehner, a man known for occasionally blubbering on the floor, “had it not been for this partisan speech that the speaker gave on the floor of the House.”

“I mean,” he continued, after stuttering and stammering for a moment, “we put everything we had into getting the votes to get there today. But the speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference; caused a number of members, who we thought we could get, to go south.”

And now we pause. We freeze the world around us; we go to commercial break; we stop to consider and to contemplate the Republicans’ move. Were they really offended? Did their precious little hearts skip a beat when that mean old Creature of the House said those hurtful things? Of course not. Republicans were already critical of the bill prior to meeting on Monday. The bailout plan coughed in the face of conservative logic. It was, they cried, antithetical to American capitalism. Spending so much money in such a way, they cried, is Un-American. It’s socialism!

They’re base, too, cried the same. But this put the Republicans in a tough spot. Failure to proceed and to vote yes would be a public relations nightmare. Politically, they were in a nasty place. What to do? What to do? Oh, Jesus, what were the Republicans to do?

Then the Creature spoke. And the Republicans cried foul. And they pretended as though their feelings had been hurt. And they found a scapegoat. Pelosi’s screed had served their purpose, and they took the opportunity and ran with it. And, as a result, the Republicans who wept openly over Pelosi’s speech came off as giant, blubbering children. Yet the continued to pretend that Pelosi’s diatribe offended them and sabotaged the bill.

While this line of reasoning permeates the Republican Party, the Democrats seem to be wandering around wide-eyed and dazed, not certain where to go now. No one knows where to go now, which is part of the problem. Bailout seems imminent—despite the criticisms one may have. But as the market closed, the Dow plunged 777 points, and someone must take the blame. But who?

Who indeed. In an age of fierce partisan politics, the answer is obvious: fling mud. Blame the other party. Blame blame blame. Point fingers, shout names, and squawk, squawk, squawk. More squawking is done these days than actual work, and modern politicians, Incompetents, excel at the former and bitch and complain and drag their feet when it comes to the latter, especially if the work needed is required to shore up serious issues and problems.

The nature of the American political system has been hijacked and butchered by smug troglodytes more concerned with personal ambition than national interests. And when their ambition and staunch adherence to partisan politics become transparent, they change the subject; they spin the narrative until they are no longer the bad guys. And little gets done, little substance escapes, and in the end we’re left with a lot of Incompetents talking a lot of nonsense while saying very little.

“There is an opinion,” wrote George Washington, in what became known as his Farewell Address, “that parties in free countries are useful checks upon the administration of the Government, and serve to keep alive the spirit of Liberty. This within certain limits is probably true; and in Governments of a Monarchical cast, Patriotism may look with indulgence, if not with favor, upon the spirit of party. But in those of the popular character, in Governments purely elective, it is a spirit not to be encouraged. From their natural tendency, it is certain there will always be enough of that spirit for every salutary purpose. And, there being constant danger of excess, the effort ought to be, by force of public opinion, to mitigate and assuage it. A fire not to be quenched, it demands a uniform vigilance to prevent its bursting into a flame, lest, instead of warming, it should consume.”

And consume it has, and consume it will.

Daulton Dickey is a freelance writer currently living in Indiana whose first passion is politics. He can be reached at: godofmovies@yahoo.com. Read other articles by Daulton, or visit Daulton's website.

5 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Donald Hawkins said on October 2nd, 2008 at 9:42am #

    I sent this to one of the financial channels this morning.

    What have we just seen up there on the hill the last few day’s, not much. I like to call it the illusion of competence. Print more money basically, wow and the staffers probably did most of the work. It’s the money stupid and yes that is stupid. The last time I checked those showrooms in the car dealerships are a little dark and many things seem to be a little dark. Did the hill people make any hard choices, no but told everybody that they worked together this time wonderful. Just a couple of ideas. First admit the problems we face. We need to get not only governments but business and all the people remember that one all the people on the same page. Repower America and change this broken system along the way. Remember those cool smart minds they are out there and we need there help. How do we get say the companies on the same page well ask them and if that doesn’t work the N word. We are out of time. We are not out of time do me a favor don’t insult my intelligent’s. Yes the nonsense still works on some people but I don’t think for much longer. How do you like them apples Charlie, old saying.

    Why are the showrooms dark for the car companies? That’s because the cars and trucks still have internal combustion engines and are still to big. Natural gas will work for big machinery. 700 billion would go along way for mass transit. The energy part is only one part another is improved forest and farming Worldwide. Can you sent this to all the heads of every corporation and policy maker on the planet. Thanks.

  2. bozhidar bob balkas said on October 2nd, 2008 at 9:57am #

    never fear, the mob is still here. it never did go away. it’s grip on america is still very firm.
    nothing happened. some people will have to pay higher taxes to pay off the charitable donation.
    america is still worth zillions and not trillions.
    the gang w. no pangs rules; as always before; to continue for decades, centuries, millennia, eons? thnx

  3. HR said on October 2nd, 2008 at 10:56am #

    This guy would be great on CNN, except they already have too many purveyors of BS.

  4. Donald Hawkins said on October 2nd, 2008 at 11:01am #

    Bozhidar I agree but isn’t there something that can be done, something.

  5. MrSynec3 said on October 3rd, 2008 at 1:44am #

    Daulton Dickey,

    Do you work for Wall St. fat cats.? Why Congress had to pass that terrible bill which is nothing but a robbery by Wall St. fat cats from the average citizens.
    Why is the rush without holding anyhearings and listening to economists of varied points of views.?
    There are many ways to supply credit to the economy without rewarding Wall St. robber Barons.
    The bill did not contain any measure to re-regulate the financial markets or retrieve at least some of the money stolen by Wall St.’s thieves or starting investigation to find the criminals behind this mess.
    That bill will let the Wall St escape with the profits and bonuces and
    sucks the tas payers with the losses left behind.