Pragmatic Solutions for Today’s Problems

I have made a number of very promising proposals to Congress to bring down the federal budget. For example, my cost effective suggestion to eliminate the Air Force was ignored.  Even though al Qaeda has neither fighter planes nor cities to bomb, we still maintain a fleet of air superiority planes and strategic bombers. I noticed recently that the Army has planes, the Navy has planes, and the Marines – wait for it – also have planes. Remember how after 9/11 Congress formed the Department of Homeland Security to eliminate overlap and duplicated efforts among various agencies? Neither do they.

I’ve also gotten no response to my bold initiative to simultaneously raise funds and resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Consider: we have two parties fighting over a chunk of desert filled with immigrants, old Jews, and military fetishists. It’s exactly like Arizona. So sell the Palestinians Arizona for a few billion. Arizona is hot, has no water, and it won’t take the Palestinians long to find some scriptural reason for being there, the way everyone did with a wedge of rock and sand on the eastern Mediterranean. Everyone wins, and maybe we can just leave Jan Brewer and Joe Arpaio behind, the way you left a bunch of crap in the dorm closet after sophomore year.

Alas, ignoring my bold yet pragmatic proposals has come at high cost with this week’s government shutdown. Frankly, I don’t know how to bring the Republicans and Democrats together, but I do have a plan to prevent this sort of thing from happening again:

Refuse to allow members of congress or their staff access to the media.

None. News from Congress can be reported based on the congressional record, the way that NPR has Nina Totenberg cover the Supreme Court by reading the transcripts in her sexy, sexy, voice. Members of Congress would be left to the boring work of compromise, negotiation, and legislating and not have to worry about well crafted soundbites, staying on message, and holding their head just right so it looks like they have a chin. That last one only applies to Mitch McConnell.

We are a nation obsessed with two kinds of television: reality shows and sports. Combine them together, and you get our political coverage: the loudest, dumbest, most outrageous personalities competing in a zero sum game of absurdly inflated stakes. There would be no Ted Cruz if craven, attention starved half-wits weren’t guaranteed an audience. The only difference between Cruz and Snooki is…there is no difference. Before cable created a competitive marketplace for idiots, charlatans, and whack-a-dos, people like Cruz and Snooki would’ve been unknown outside of their grocery store parking lots.

Ok, Ted Cruz might still hold office — because Texas seems to hold Yosemite Sam as an ideal politician- but no one would care. It’s like Schroedinger’s Cat. Lock Cruz, Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio, Louie Gohmert, and their friends in a metal box and deny them mics and cameras and they would be alive and dead at the same time.

This is an experiment we can actually test. Fox let go of Sarah Palin in January of 2013. They hired her back six months later, but she is largely invisible to the public. Sure, you could actually seek her out on the Fox News website, but you won’t – because watching Fox means you’re an old white guy, and old white guys can’t use the internet for crap. Therefore, the act of seeking out Sarah Palin’s commentary on the web would negate the fact you were interested in her opinions the first place. It’s like Schroedinger’s Cat. Or not, but there are only so many quantum physics jokes I’m able to make.

I started to realize that sports and reality TV were shaping political coverage when even NPR started referring to the “optics” of a given legislative battle. In 1992 we fetishized the political consultants in Bill Clinton’s war room, and 20 years later, we’re all talking like them. Nous sommes tous James Carville. Even now, with the shutdown firmly in place, the news is less about the practical effects of a non-functioning government, but about who the voters will blame, aka “who’s going to win this thing?” And that’s what the news has been about for WEEKS.

Another example: with the exception of the two men involved and a few party hacks, who really cares about a possible challenger to John Boehner for Speaker, or that Mitch McConnell may face a primary opponent to his right? Yet there is non-stop coverage of these stories. Because one man looks like an Oompa Loompa after 20 years of making Gobstoppers, and the other looks like Lonesome George’s lost brother and one of them might LOSE. But for a couple of breast implants, the low stakes drama of their struggle to stay in office could be on Bravo.

Of course, I don’t deny that there is a general hunger for political drama. That’s why I’m proposing the Fox News Fiction channel.  It seems like a natural fit for them after their great efforts in fantastical storytelling during the 2012 election. Just in time for the 2014 midterms Fox could now launch an entire channel devoted to viewer-submitted scripts for political fan fiction

I’ve taken the liberty of writing a script based in a fantasy world where Barack Obama is a great president with instinctive leadership skills and a commitment to the liberal causes he was elected on. I know, completely unrealistic, but here’s an excerpt:

*****

Scene: The West Wing of the White House. Evening.  We hear someone slowly whistling “The Farmer in the Dell.” President Obama (Al Pacino) slowly descends a staircase from the residence. Waiting for him at the bottom is Speaker of the House John Boehner (Paul Giamatti).

President Obama(descending the stairs): “John! Johnny! The Speaker in my house. Well, well.”

Boehner: “Good evening, Mr. President. Thank you for seeing me to negotiate this budget shutdown.”

President Obama reaches the bottom of the stairs, but remains one step above Boehner. He reaches to gently brush some imaginary lint off Boehner’s shoulder.

President Obama: “I got terms now, Johnny. You’re gonna love ’em”

Boehner “B-b-but, Mr. President, I’m here because we were going to talk about my party’s terms.. (smiles uncomfortably)”

President Obama: “Things change Johnny. Change you can believe in and all that… We’re going to add a carbon tax amendment to the budget. A federal gay marriage amendment. Assault weapons ban, too. Guns, gays, and greenhouse gas. How’s that sound, Johnny?”

Boehner “Mr President! That’s outrage– ridiculous. My caucus will never agree. I came here to talk about defunding Obamacare.”

The President is now level with Boehner, and leans in closely. His nose is almost touching the Speaker’s. He places both hands on Boehner’s shoulders. He is whispering now, teeth clenched,eyes wild. Droplets of spit are landing on Boehner’s face. Boehner is terrified.

Obama: “It’s the law, Johnny. Three and a half years ago. The Supreme Court upheld it. A year ago. I was re-elected. Last year. So now: carbon tax. The gays marry. Guns gone. And you and the Tea Party can take your defunding AND SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!”

With this, the President shoves Boehner backwards. The Speaker stumbles, and finds himself up on one knee. The President reaches into this pocket.

Boehner: “Mr. P-P-President…”

Obama (bellowing): “You want to play games? You think ’cause I’m Kenyan I’m going to run? You think you can stop me?  SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE FRIEND! (We see that the President is holding his Nobel Peace Prize in his palm, now raised above his head)

President Obama hits John Boehner in the head with his Peace Prize, sending the Speaker of the House to the floor in a spray of blood.

****

Well, it’s no dumber than what’s actually happened.

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