“Tax the rich,” cry some. “Cut spending,” replies the loyal opposition. And through it all, nothing gets done. The only thing both sides of the political spectrum can seem to agree on is the phrase, “We’ve been perfectly clear on this issue.” That expression is then followed by words that are as muddy as the Mississippi after a Midwestern flood.
Not that it will ever happen, but wouldn’t it be kind of fun to have an open microphone in the negotiating room. Present at the table would be the key players who, thus far, have played out the battle over the airwaves and in journalistic ink. Representing the Administration would be President “I-Won-So-Get-Over-It” Obama. Democrat Harry “I-Don’t-Know-Anything-About-Real-Estate-Deals-In-Nevada” Reid and Republican Mitch “I-Am-Smiling” McConnell would be on hand from the Senate. The House would send Minority Leader Nancy “Age-Has-Nothing-To-Do-With-It” Pelosi and Speaker John “Who-Took-My-Spray-Tan-Can” Boehner.
My guess is, the talk might go something like this:
Obama: Gotta tax the rich.
Boehner: Not gonna happen.
Obama: I promised to do it, and there are a certain group of supporters in my party that will have my head if I don’t keep that promise.
Boehner: Hey, you think we don’t have kooks on our side?
Pelosi: Did he just call me a kook?
Reid: I’m sure he meant present company was excepted.
McConnell: Let’s just cut spending.
McConnell: Sheesh. It was just a suggestion.
Boehner: Anybody got a cigarette?
Obama: Here. Have one of mine. Just don’t tell Michelle.
Reid: You know, we might be able to look at this piecemeal. We all know we can’t do anything to upset Ohio, Florida, Virginia or North Carolina.
McConnell: The Swing States. Right. Gotta keep those folks happy.
Reid: But you Rs know you’ve got Alabama, Tennessee, Texas, and Utah in your back pockets no matter what, right?
Boehner: And you Ds have California, Vermont, New York, and Delaware sewn up.
Obama: I see where you’re going and I like it. We could cut federal spending just in those states without anybody getting hurt in the next election.
Pelosi: I’m good with it. Except for the California part. We’re kind of broke you know. We need every nickel we can get from Washington. That’s almost embarrassing to admit. I really don’t know how it happened.
McConnell: You’re kidding. Your state legislature spends money like a first-round draft pick and half the population’s on the dole, and you don’t know why your state’s broke?
Obama: Take it easy, Mitch. Nancy’s from San Francisco. They can get a little sensitive out there.
Boehner: Wait a minute. That plan’s not gonna work anyway.
Reid: How come?
Boehner: Two words — Joe Biden. He’ll tell on us. He won’t mean to, but he will. You know I’m right.
Obama: He makes a good point.
McConnell: Great. That puts us back at square one.
Boehner: I need another smoke.
Obama: Get your own, Boehner.
And so it goes. I once heard a story about Richard J. Daley, Chicago Mayor from 1955-1976. Knowing his reputation, I suspect it was true. It seems representatives of a union and city officials couldn’t agree on a contract. The discussions went nowhere until one day, Hizzoner invited all parties to his conference room. He fed them and made sure everybody had plenty of water and coffee to drink. Then he told everybody in a loud voice, “Nobody leaves this room for any reason until there’s an agreement.” Whereupon he walked out the door, and locked it firmly behind him. Bladders spoke louder than words. An agreement was shortly forthcoming.
Might not be a bad idea.
Bill Lewis of Marietta is a former Hollywood scriptwriter.