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A Comet Tale

Only weeks before the almost certain extinction of all life on Earth, Senate Democrats were unable to muster enough support to force a vote on President Obama’s nominee to lead his proposed Comet Defense Task Force.

A visibly angered Obama vowed to take the fight straight to the people. At a speech in a field outside Dubuque, Iowa, at the very the spot where the massive comet is expected to strike, Mr Obama said, “With a rock a million times the size of the one that hit Russia the other day heading right for us,” he said, “it’s time for Congress to put aside partisan concerns and act. The American people deserve a vote.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) led the charge against former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Obama’s choice for the post. “We need more information about this guy,” Graham said. “For instance, why hasn’t he come clean about Benghazi?”

Reminded that Gates was not in government at the time of the attack on the U.S. embassy, Graham responded, “Is that why he got out? We need to know a lot more before we let him take such an important job. The lives of every American are at stake.”

Ted Cruz, the firebrand junior senator from Texas, was equally adamant. “How much contact did this Gates guy have with Martians before this comet suddenly appeared? How often did he communicate with our interstellar enemies?”

Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner threatened to withhold funding for the task force. “My caucus has two main concerns. Many of us are deeply skeptical of writing a blank check for something that might not even work at a time of crushing deficits. We won’t fund this boondoggle unless every penny is offset by spending cuts.”

"And," Boehner added, "a significant number thinks this comet is God’s will, and it would be wrong to try and thwart it. And the concerns of other members need to be addressed before we agree to move forward."

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) vowed, “Not one dime if illegal immigrants aren’t specifically exempted.” Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said he would refuse to vote to fund comet prevention if gays were included in the protection. 

That sentiment was echoed by televangelist Pat Robertson, who said, “You just knew something like this would happen when they let homosexuals in the military.”

NRA head Wayne LaPierre demanded that private citizens be given immediate access to nuclear weapons and the missiles to launch them. “Those anti-gun zealots in Washington would rather let you die than allow you to defend yourself,” he said. “The Second Amendment was written to give Americans the firepower they need to shoot that thing out of the sky.”

An exasperated Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said, “This is insane! The longer we wait the closer that thing comes, and the harder it will be to deflect or destroy!”

John Cornyn (R-TX) countered, “Says who? A bunch of so-called scientists trying to scare us with their end-of-the-world hokum. The same bunch that’s behind the global warming hoax, I bet.”

Barbara Boxer (D-CA) bemoaned the loss of comity in the normally staid Senate. “This is a sad day. This is the first time in history that a nominee for such an important post has been filibustered.”

"It’s not really a filibuster," John McCain (R-AR) claimed. "It’s a temporary halt in the proceedings that just LOOKS exactly like a filibuster. We’ll allow a vote after the recess."

With the Senate not scheduled to reconvene until three days before the comet hits, there is little likelihood that there will be enough time to prevent the total annihilation of the planet. 

Conservative Republicans were unmoved. “It might not be such a bad thing just to let it happen,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK). “If the world ends, so will the deficit.”

Nov 8

Nail-biter?

This was a close election, right? A nation bitterly divided between red and blue. Two parties evenly splitting the vote. Two starkly different visions of America. Obama squeaking out a bare 50.3% of the popular vote, although he carried the electoral college handily. Except that it wasn’t really close and we aren’t that divided. No president presiding over an economy this bad should have been re-elected; it should have been a landslide for Mitt Romney, and the Democrats should have lost the Senate. If this election revealed anything, it’s not a divided electorate, it’s the glaring weakness of the Republican Party, which has become a party almost exclusively of rich old white men.

Demographics is destiny, they say, and the GOP has spent the last 20 years alienating the fastest-growing segments of the population. It has gone out of its way to drive away Blacks, Hispanics, women and the young, presenting the Democrats with a winning coalition broad enough to deliver a victory even in the worst economic climate in more than 70 years. Had unemployment been, say, five percent, Obama would have won in a landslide and the Dems likely would have retaken the House. Worse for the Republicans, the map is turning more and more blue. The solid South is solid no more, with Virginia and Florida going blue and North Carolina in play. The West, too, is turning Democratic, with Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada joining the West Coast, and Arizona beginning to shift. No region of the country is going the other way.

Now the fun begins. How will the Republican Party react? Will it adopt a more conciliatory strategy now that its four-year opposition to anything Obama has failed, or will it dig into that destructive playbook again? House Speaker Boehner seems willing to work across the aisle, now that the Tea Party has been somewhat rebuked (if not chastened). Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is another story. His classless and off-key remarks after the election don’t seem to offer much hope. Is it too much to hope that his own caucus might have something other than another four fruitless years of obstructionism in mind?

Sep 4

Better Off?

The Republicans have been hammering Obama with Ronald Reagan’s famous question, asked during his debate with Jimmy Carter, “Are you better off now than you were four years ago?” It’s a trick question, of course. The economy collapsed at the very end of the Bush presidency, and the downward spiral continued until mid-2009, when unemployment reached 10%. The stock market bottomed out in December of 2008, before Obama took office.  Since then, there’s been steady, if slow improvement. The stock market has regained much of its value, and unemployment, while still high, is hovering near 8%. This does Obama little good, however. “Actually, we’re ever so slightly better off than we were four years ago” isn’t much of a slogan to run on.

A better one might be, “I’m not Jimmy Carter, and Mitt Romney sure isn’t Ronald Reagan.”

It will be interesting to see how Obama and the Dems counter the continuing misrepresentations of the Republican candidates. I’m hoping that Obama comes out swinging, and offers a big, broad, visionary economic plan, even if it’s all but certain it would never get through a stalemated Congress. The Republicans have offered nothing new, just a repetition of the destructive policies that got us here in the first place. Cut taxes for the rich, deregulate business.  ”Are you better off now” is a shopworn retread. Can nostalgia for the Reagan era compete with a genuine vision? I hope we’ll find out over the next three days.