Typically, writing about something like the current government shutdown would be the sort of monstrously predictable thing I’d try to avoid in this column. See, I kinda-sorta learned my lesson about a year ago after I published that “However Many Stupid Things Mitt Romney has Said Up to this Point” article. Oh, don’t get me wrong — I didn’t actually receive or actively search out any feedback the piece may or may not have generated, but sobering was the moment in which I realized I had stooped so far as to be suckered by such low-hanging fruit. It’s the same feeling I get after I respond to another one of Austin’s sticky word-salads, without the sense of accomplishment.
For real, though: this is getting old. On the one hand, it’s difficult to deal with, because there really isn’t a whole hell of a lot that we can do about it. The Republican party is, essentially, holding this nation hostage because they’re all butt-hurt about the 2012 election; if we can take him at his word, GOP Rep. Peter King has said that there are about “30 to 40” congressional Republicans who don’t believe that President Obama legitimately won the presidency; Tea Party Express Chair (which is the most depressing job title this side of Glory-Hole Squeegee Technician) Amy Kremer says she’s sick of hearing about how Obama was “re-elected,” a word she utters with downright audible quotation marks or, for those of you not cursed with synesthesia, as if every syllable is a parasitic host having second thoughts.
No, I’d say just about all we can do at this point is watch all the links in this freak chain bump ideological uglies until they come to their collective senses. Hey, speaking of seamless segues:
The Good: The Source of the Problem Is Obvious, and Unanimous
Well, maybe not unanimous — but still, when pretty much every political, religious, civil and agricultural issue in this nation is usually parsed according to Democrat-Republican apathy ratios, we can consider this statistic firmly ensconced in the “really freaking close” category: according to a recent poll conducted by The Fix, about 70 percent of Americans hold Republicans largely to blame for the shutdown. Statistically, that includes a large number of real-world conservatives who are beginning to see, process and understand just what the consequences are of such a situation; conservatives who know that upholding God and country don’t mean diddly-squat if a nation — citizens and leaders alike — can’t look out for its own.
Hell, a prominent Utah newspaper recently ran a similar poll that, by its results, took congressional Republicans to task over the shutdown, essentially saying that taking the fight to Obama over healthcare legislation — that was already voted on by the Supreme Court and the American people — isn’t worth the consequences. And man, if the crimson is growing faint even in Utah, GOPers are not gonna come out of this looking very good. Which brings me to…
The Neuge: Bauer, That Is
There is a video that’s been making the blogosphere rounds recently, and it would be this era’s most scathing indictment of social apathy if only Mitt Romney hadn’t been caught on camera by Mother Jones last year, and if “Little Fockers” hadn’t been greenlit.
In it, Texas congressman Joe Neugebauer (which sounds like a word that Jerry Lewis would fart), berates a park ranger preventing all of the public — with the exception of World War II veterans — from entering the WWII memorial in Washington, D.C. First, this exchange takes place:
“How do you look at them and… deny them access?” said Neugebauer.
“It’s difficult,” responded the Park Service employee.
“Well, it should be difficult,” replied the congressman, who was carrying a small American flag in his breast pocket.
“It is difficult,” responded the Park Service employee. “I’m sorry, sir.”
“The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves,” the congressman said.
“I’m not ashamed,” replied the ranger.
Watching Joe Neugebauer berate a federal employee for enforcing the very conditions that he himself helped to execute and exacerbate is like watching a dog chew through its own leg when it’s not even caught in a bear trap. He’ll never full comprehend the irony of his actions because he’s too much of a dimwit, and he’ll never be self-aware because his human creators programmed him to not feel love.
Undoubtedly, Neugebauer was simply there to try and wrangle a few public opinion points out of the whole situation; stand up for the troops and all that. Instead, he found himself face to face with a pissed-off, knowledgeable crowd of onlookers:
“Ask those questions of the people who aren’t passing the budget,” shouted a voice from the crowd. “That’s who you need to ask these questions to.”
“This woman is doing her job, just like me,” shouted another. “I’m a 30-year federal veteran — I’m out of work.”
“Well, the reason you are is because Mr. Reid decided to shut down the government,” responded Neugebauer, referring to the top Senate Democrat.
“No, it’s because the government won’t do its job and pass a budget,” the bicyclist responded.
“The House did its job; it passed appropriations. The Senate hasn’t,” said another voice from the crowd.
Neugebauer walked away at that point.
Watching this video is like bearing witness to a microcosm of the immediate future: pretty soon, congressional conservatives are going to come face to face with pissed-off citizens asking real, pertinent, difficult questions. Because they are cowards, they will try to disappear. And because they are morons, they will try to do it in broad daylight.
The Rand: AKA, Not This Jackass Again
I’ve already run down the general talking points of Rand Paul’s extensive awfulness: his Tea Party kowtowing, his sometimes-latent, sometimes-outright racism, the epic pettiness of his filibuster. A new sound-bite, however, as incidental as it may sound, effectively sums up why this scheme, like all the others before, is destined to fail. In it, Paul is captured — via a hot mic — in conversation with Mitch McConnell, saying, “We’re going to win this, I think.”
First of all: no. Second, and more importantly, this exchange is illustrative of the crucial flaw in the GOP’s socio-political outlook: to them, this is a game. This is something that is for winning or for losing, and nothing in between. There are no nuances, there are no consequences, there are no beating hearts.