Updated: October 14, 2013 8:54PM
Question: If Ted Cruz and John Boehner were both on a sinking ship, who would be saved?
Harsh? Look around you at what is happening to America and you will see harsh. I am not talking about closed parks and monuments. I am talking about the funds cut to nearly 9 million mothers and young children for food, breast-feeding support and infant formula.
That is harsh. Making a war against babies is harsh. And for what? Because Ted Cruz, Republican senator from Texas, has grown so drunk on the sound of his own voice and so besotted with illusions of his own grandeur that he believes halting government today will propel him into the White House tomorrow?
As The New York Times ably pointed out, this shutdown did not just happen. It was plotted for months by a coalition of more than three dozen conservative groups, led by Edwin Meese III. The groups were funded in part by the billionaire right-wing Koch brothers, who wanted to cripple Obamacare. (Koch Industries denies it has supported using the shutdown as a tactic.)
You remember Ed Meese. He was Ronald Reagan’s attorney general who was forced to resign in the Wedtech scandal while under investigation by a special prosecutor. Today, Meese sees himself as not a sleazy hustler but America’s savior. And he wants to save us from health care.
Shortly after Obama began his second term, Meese went to work gathering conservative influence-peddlers and members of the tea party caucus in Congress to repeal Obamacare. Cruz was happy to act as Obamacare’s willing executioner in the Senate and pushed a shutdown of government to do so.
House Speaker Boehner eventually went along. It was blackmail on a massive order: Stop Obamacare, or we will never reopen the government.
It is now evident that both houses of Congress have the votes to end the shutdown. But so far, Boehner will not let that come to a vote. If he does, he is afraid the tea party conservatives will strip him of his job.
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” the New Testament asks.
Are you kidding me? Have you ever seen Boehner’s suite of offices in the Capitol? It would make Midas blush.
Boehner does not bend to the will of his kamikaze caucus because he is an evil man. He does so because he is a weak man. To borrow a line from Theodore Roosevelt, I could carve a better man out of a banana.
There is a price to be paid for all this. Even if the immediate problems are somehow solved and a government default avoided — for now — the scab has been torn off our political wounds.
This weekend, racism came out of the closet (which assumes it has ever been in the closet).
Protesters marched through the streets of Washington on Sunday with a Confederate flag, and then a protester lounged against the White House fence with one. Displaying the Confederate flag in front of a home occupied by a black family was meant to send a particular — and particularly repellant — message.
There were other signs of our descent. Remember Samuel Wurzelbacher? Known as Joe the Plumber, he was selected by John McCain as his presidential campaign mascot in 2008 with the same care McCain used to select Sarah Palin.
On Oct. 10, Wurzelbacher posted an article on his blog that was titled “America Needs a White Republican President.”
“Admit it,” the article said. “You want a white Republican president again. Wanting a white Republican president doesn’t make you racist, it just makes you American.”
America has come to a sorry pass. Not because there are still racists among us, but because the racists among us think they can tell us what makes an American.
These people are like a man in a cartoon who has climbed out on a tree limb and is sawing off the limb behind him, imagining that the tree will fall and that he won’t.
They are wrong about that. America will not fall. It will withstand this moment and these people.
I started with a joke, so I will end with one:
Question: What is the difference between the people who shut down the government and the people who have been furloughed?
Answer: The people who have been furloughed want to work.