Saturday, December 9, 2023

Politics; The Seinfeld Shutdown.

January 27, 2019 by  
Filed under News, Opinion, Politics, Weekly Columns

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( Jerry Seinfeld has described his eponymous sitcom as “a show about nothing.”  And that’s exactly what this latest government shutdown was.  After 35 days, the longest shutdown in history, absolutely nothing was accomplished.  The bill that was passed and signed on Friday was virtually the same deal that was before congress back in December when this farce began.  There were some instructive incidents along the way, however, that could signal what the next two years will look like.

Foremost was the way Speaker Nancy Pelosi handled the situation.  I have to admit, I was one of the people who advocated for a new, younger Representative to assume the Speakership.  But she was masterful in keeping her large and fractious caucus together and in handing the president his first significant defeats since he’s been in office.

Back-in-the-day we had a saying, “Don’t let your mouth write a check that your ass can’t cash.”  When Pelosi called off the State of the Union address, the president apparently had no idea that she had the power to do that.  First he had White House staff call the Sargent at Arms of the House to schedule a “walk through” for the speech even though the Speaker had “suggested” they postpone: they got no response.  Then, trying to cash a bad check, he wrote to the Speaker that he was still coming on the January 29th date he and the Speaker had previously discussed.  Whereupon he was politely, and firmly shot down.

Never one to study up, and having witnessed how feckless the previous Speaker, Paul Ryan was, the president was seemingly unaware that the Speaker, as a Constitutional Officer second in line to the presidency, has total control over the House Floor where the speech was to take place.  I’m sure after some panicked calls to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for their intervention, he was informed there was nothing they could do.

Then, after a “ground stop” of all flights on the East Coast because of a shortage of air traffic controllers forced to work without pay, just imagine the angry calls to the White House from wealthy donors who could not fly their private jets yelling “get this thing over with!”  The president had no choice but to relent and open the government without any funding for his wall.

The whole issue of “the border wall” was bogus from the beginning.  Think about it.  If building a 30 foot high concrete wall along the entire length of the southern border was critical to our national security, why would we expect another, poorer, country to pay for it?  With no pesos forthcoming, that part of the promise was forgotten and the responsibility to foot the bill was foisted on American taxpayers.  The stalemate that resulted from the president’s inability to fulfill his campaign promise led to the debacle that ended in his ignominious defeat.

The other aspect of the lesson we saw was how true leadership behaves and responds.  In both her “suggestion” to postpone the State of the Union and her refusal to give any money for building a wall, Speaker Pelosi remained polite and resolute.  She did not resort to name-calling or profanity, two of the president’s go-to tactics, and when the government was reopened she did not “spike the football”.  Instead, she expressed her gladness that normal operations would resume, regret for the needless disruption and thanks to the government workers who continued to perform their duties even without pay.  Class.

In the two short (it feels longer) years of this presidency, many have forgotten what real leadership looks like.  It’s not bullying and bluster to get your way and it’s certainly not acting out of ignorance, either of your own powers and responsibilities and that of those you have to work with, to get anything done.  Having been able to get away with breaking all of the “norms” of his office followed by his predecessors, he was not prepared to deal with someone who was willing to stand on principle to uphold one of our most important leadership values: integrity.  He wrote and bad check and Nancy bounced it.

So now we’ll see what happens next.  Keep an eye on Venezuela.  This president would not be the first to employ a “Wag the Dog” scenario to distract from a debilitating defeat.  Remember Reagan attacking Grenada after the Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon was bombed.  If nothing else, Pelosi has punctured the aura of invincibility that the president had enveloped himself in.  If he was Kanye’s superman, Nancy is his kryptonite.

Should this presidency last the next two years, at least we now know that some “checks and balances” have been restored.  As Speaker Pelosi said after this all went down and the government was set to reopen, “Our diversity is our strength and our unity is our power.”

Staff Writer; Harry Sewell

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