Donald Kaul: This truce may not bring peace to Washington
Well, that was certainly worth 24 billion bucks, don’t you think? I mean the entertainment value of Sen. Ted Cruz’s faux filibuster alone was worth a couple billion or so.
And House Speaker John Boehner’s face when he would come out during the 16-day-long government shutdown and accuse President Barack Obama of being uncooperative? Priceless. The Ohio Republican is the greatest deadpan comedian we’ve had since Buster Keaton. But the best thing about getting the lights back on is that we can look forward to another episode of this tragicomedy again in a couple of months or so. The deal that averted a collision with the debt ceiling and ended the shutdown is only temporary. The government is funded only through Jan. 15, and the debt ceiling may need another boost just three weeks later.Oh, I know, there are those who say it won’t happen a second time, that this fight was so bruising and so costly to the Republican brand that only fools, idiots, and the deranged would try it again so soon.You’ve just described a majority of the Republican caucus in the House.The tea party faithful are already beating their war drums, vilifying the more-or-less reasonable Republicans who backed off of the threat to bring the economy crashing down on our heads unless the Affordable Care Act was euthanized. In the eyes of the radical right, they’re quitters, traitors and cowards.Admirers are likening the tea party line in response to having its head handed to it in the fiscal crisis to Churchill.“Never give in. Never, never, never, never.” That was Churchill’s response to threat of Nazi Germany.To me the response sounds much more like the way Bluto responded to getting expelled from Faber College.“Over?” John Belushi’s character in the film “Animal House” asked his frat brothers. “Nothing is over until we decide it is. Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!”Ignorance and passion always stir up a cocktail of hilarious comedy.The White House said no one was the winner in this confrontation. That’s silly. Obama, who upheld the principle that the full faith and credit of the United States wasn’t a bargaining chip, was a winner.But perhaps the biggest winner, oddly enough, was Sen. Cruz, the preening Republican from Texas.He lost the war, assuredly, but he emerged as the great conservative hero of the battle. It was an amazing performance.He’s the junior Senator from Texas, barely nine months on the job. A year ago, hardly anyone outside of Texas knew his name, and he wasn’t all that well known in Texas either.Yet by simply standing his ground, against all reason, he has seized control of the base of the Republican Party — its source of passion and energy, not to mention a lot of campaign money. If you were to begin to list the potential candidates for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 right now, you’d have to put his name at the top of the list.They’ve convened a House-Senate committee to work on a compromise budget before the Dec. 13 deadline, when another government shutdown will be looming. The panel is tasked with creating a new budget that trims expenses, closes tax loopholes, and inspires growth.Forgive me for not being optimistic, but when they get to the part about loopholes the crazies will begin screaming. “Taxes! You’re trying to raise taxes,” they’ll say. “We’re going to run a primary opponent against you.” And that will be that.This is an exhausting process. We’ve made fools of ourselves in the eyes of the world and delivered a body blow to our economy.And there’s no end in sight. What a fiasco.By the way, I’ve retired three times already. The last time around, I vowed I wouldn’t do it again unless I meant it. So I’m not retiring.But I am taking a leave for a while so I can deal with some health issues. I hope to be back in a few weeks or so.It’ll be nice not having to pay close attention to the yahoos in Congress for a while.Donald Kaul is an OtherWords columnist who lives in Ann Arbor, Mich.