Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The I Word and the Albatross

The I Word and the Albatross

We are in the doldrums: locked in an endless dance of pointless antagonism between Congress and the White House, challenged both domestically and internationally by complex if not intractable issues, and paralyzed by what seems to be both a lack of will, and a lack of ideas.

In Coleridge’s Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, a ship with 200 souls escapes the killing cold of Antarctica, led by an albatross to warmer seas, where fog awaits.  When the Ancient Mariner, on impulse, shoots the albatross, the sailors initially cheer, thinking the albatross caused the fog.  But the spirits are angry, and the ship is driven into unchartered seas, to bake under the Equatorial sun. A horrible fate awaits.

    All in a hot and copper sky,
    The bloody Sun, at noon,
    'Right up above the mast did stand,
    No bigger than the Moon.

    Day after day, day after day,
    We stuck, no breath no motion;
    As idle as a painted ship
    Upon a painted ocean.

What does one do when there is no breath and no motion?

When it comes to politics, at first, we tend to complain a lot about whatever the issue du jour is; the Middle East, jobs, taxes, sequesters, Trayvon, voting rights, guns, contraception, spying and leaks about spying, etc. etc.  

And then, because we are just ordinary people with lives, and jobs, and families to take care of, we rouse ourselves and get on with it.  Shower, get dressed, check on our kids, grab something to put in our stomachs, run to our cars or trains, and do the thousand small chores that make up a day. 

Most of us understand that; the conference call with the client at 9:30 or the snaking out of the clogged drain or the PTA meeting is a lot more important than the ritual denunciation (or praise) of a rodeo act in Missouri.  We just don’t have the time.

That is why we have politicians and pundits: to gripe on our behalf.  Also, presumably, to help lead us, to make difficult decisions, to dive into the minutiae of legislation or the big policy issues. 

And yet, here we sit, baking in the sun, waiting for a breeze.

The ship is not moving.  There is a lot of activity below deck, fevered scuttling about, bloviating and sheer fantasy masquerading as progress. Mr. Obama has a prosaic dream of the day when the GOP will agree to any one of his ideas.  His opponents, however, have something far more titillating in mind: Impeach the bum!

Impeachment as a form of autoeroticism might seem to some of us as a tad perverse, but it’s essentially harmless when indulged in in the privacy of one’s own home. Think of it as a victimless crime among consenting adults.  However, some seem to be taking it outdoors. Ted Cruz loves the idea but says he doesn’t have enough votes in the Senate.  Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) said it would be a “dream come true.” The very conservative but usually measured Senator Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) has talked about it in a public meeting. Republican shock jocks from every direction are calling for it and major right wing newspapers and columnists try to plough the field, writing continuously of Obama’s “lawlessness”.  Ed Rodgers, the GOP consultant who blogs for the Washington Post, has even gone so far as to say Mr. Obama is asking for it.  Rumor has it that Boehner, if he wanted it, already has the 218 votes in the House to impeach.  High Noon for High Crimes and Misdemeanors.  The excitement is palpable. 

The litany of crimes that Mr. Obama is accused of is so long that it would take me several posts just repeat them, much less take the time to analyze and debunk them. The only thing he isn’t blamed for is the death of Vince Foster.  But once you get past the “scandals” that the GOP refuses to have anyone besides Darrell Issa investigate, and you eliminate any action that Obama has taken that every President before him has, you end up with a very odd sediment at the bottom of the dish.  Obama should be impeached because he isn’t likeable, isn’t doing what they want, isn’t conducting policy as they would, isn’t appointing people they would appoint.

In ordinary times this would be just tiresome (and embarrassing) partisanship, and the leadership would tamp it down so bigger issues could be dealt with.  For example, if anyone would care to notice, the Middle East could go up in flames any minute. 

But somehow, you get the feeling that logic will not prevail, and the GOP will take a shot at the albatross.  How far it goes is to be determined, but it is a very small step from the 40th vote to repeal Obamacare to the 1st vote to repeal Obama. 

And, more importantly, if they do go down this road, it will be all consuming, because the GOP seems out of other ideas. If you thought the 2012 Presidential election set new standards in vacuity, I would simply respond that records are meant to be broken.

You need to look no further than Syria to see that.  Every Republican on the planet has been denouncing Mr. Obama for his abject failures there--and they are failures. How about solutions?  Not so many.  Need proof?  Read Eliot Cohen’s article in the Washington Post, Syria will require more than cruise missiles  Mr. Cohen is a prominent neo-con and a former member of the Bush Administration.  He called for war against Iran in 2001 in an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal, and was a member of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which advocated invasion in Iraq in 2003.  Presently, he is Robert E. Osgood Professor of Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at the Johns Hopkins University.  Clearly, he has the conservative credentials, and the policy chops.   Cohen takes Obama to task for all the mistakes he made, and dismisses a host of present options as being inadequate.  Does Dr. Cohen (Ph.D. Harvard) have some recommendations?  Actually, none that he cares to share with us.  One could speculate he’s chomping for boots on the ground, but he won’t say it.  Perhaps that is because barely a quarter of Americans support military intervention? Or perhaps, he doesn’t know what to do, just what not to do.   

And that about sums it up.  Arguing not for something, but always against. Blustering, in the absence of substance.  Shooting at things without thinking through the consequences.  Impeachment, instead of ideas. 

Here’s some wisdom from Coleridge:  When a bird comes your way, leave it alone.  It could end up being a real albatross.