America the ungovernable, Pt. 1.
And this, my friends, is the calm, deliberative reaction to recent events.
1. Paul Krugman, liberal NYT columnist, writing Thursday:
We’re paralyzed in the face of mass unemployment and out-of-control health care costs. Don’t blame Mr. Obama. There’s only so much one man can do, even if he sits in the White House. Blame our political culture instead, a culture that rewards hypocrisy and irresponsibility rather than serious efforts to solve America’s problems. And blame the filibuster, under which 41 senators can make the country ungovernable, if they choose — and they have so chosen.
I’m sorry to say this, but the state of the union — not the speech, but the thing itself — isn’t looking very good.
2. David Brooks, moderate-conservative NYT columnist, writing Thursday:
There is a specter haunting America: the specter of a saner, updated version of Ross Perot. He is lurking out there, ready to ride the free-floating anger and distrust of Washington. He is out there now in one of his homes or private jets, getting madder by the day. He is large of ego, full of money and cranky in mien.
When he enters the arena, he’ll say that Washingtonians, all of them, are a bunch of failures. Over the past five years, Washington has tried to reform Social Security, immigration, health care and energy policy. All of these efforts have either failed or are close to failure — thousands of people working millions of hours and in all likelihood producing nothing.
He’ll point out that Washingtonians, all of them, breed selfishness. Republicans refuse to accept tax increases. Democrats reject spending cuts. They’ve put the country on a highway to a fiscal crisis, and there are no exit ramps...
If the setbacks of the last year haven’t radicalized you about the sickness of our current political system, Mr. President, I don’t know what will. Are you really content to spend the year lobbying for tiny tax credits for ineffective training programs?
He’s out there — that saner Ross Perot. He’s a-comin’. The country would be better off if it were you.
3. Alex Massie, a former Washington correspondent for The Scotsman who now writes for the U.K. Spectator. The following is excerpted from his recent piece in the U.S. journal Foreign Policy.
In 1939, Joseph Kennedy, then serving as U.S. ambassador to Britain, petitioned President Franklin D. Roosevelt to restrict foreign screenings of Frank Capra's Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on the grounds that the film was "an indictment of our government" that "will cause our allies to view us in an unfavorable light." Capra's depiction of a Washington dominated by special interests and toadying political hacks also angered Senate Majority Leader Alben Barkley, a Democrat from Kentucky, who complained that the movie presented a "grotesque distortion" of Washington politics that suggested that the Senate was nothing more than an "aggregation of nincompoops."
These days, mind you, there's no need for a latterday Capra to come to Washington -- not when the Senate's tragicomedy is broadcast to the world daily by CNN and the Internet. International observers of Washington politics gaze with wonder at a system that produces so much drama from so little legislation and a republic in which even winning a contest by a landslide can't guarantee success. American elections used to have consequences. Now, they merely determine which party the public wants to hate next.
That's one explanation for the present sorry state of affairs, in which the party occupying the White House and controlling both houses of Congress cannot figure out how to pass a health-care bill that has been the progressive Holy Grail since the time of Harry Truman. Of course, the other obvious conclusion to be drawn is that the Democratic Party simply isn't very good at politics.
Paul Krugman, NYT: March of the peacocks.
David Brooks, NYT: The Perot option.
Alex Massie, Foreign Policy: An aggregation of nincompoops.