Looking on the bright side
Let’s try to come up with some positive thoughts about the recent political fortunes of the Obama White House:
Economy’s getting a little better. Deficit’s dropping.
Bill Clinton had a really terrible second term and look how well things turned out for him.
Nobody in the administration has been caught driving to Canada with Bo the dog strapped to the car roof.
It’s been quite a week, what with the IRS scandal, the Benghazi controversy and revelations about the Justice Department’s sweep of The Associated Press’ phone records. Plus, the Russians came up with an alleged American spy in a bad wig who they said was caught carrying a compass, an atlas of Moscow and a ridiculous traitor-recruitment letter. That one could be a setup, but if it’s real, then we are just going to have to cancel the summer.
Republicans were leaping joyfully through the capital like overcaffeinated gazelles. There is not a committee chairman in the House of Representatives who isn’t planning hearings of outrage about something — except maybe the poor woman John Boehner appointed to run the committee in charge of housekeeping.
Heads must roll! Sen. James Inhofe announced that “people may be starting to use the i-word before too long,” having apparently missed all the prior calls for the president’s impeachment for everything from failure to balance the budget to gun control.
Sen. Marco Rubio demanded “the IRS commissioner’s resignation,” possibly unaware that the nation had not had an IRS commissioner since last November. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed doubt that the nation would be satisfied just with the head of “some temporary guy” and called for a permanent appointment. This was presumably due to Reid’s desire for stability, not just a more rewarding target.
The acting commissioner did, indeed, get the ax Wednesday, but the chances that the Senate is going to approve a new Internal Revenue Service commissioner are approximately as good as the odds it will include zombies under Social Security. Reid is still struggling with the nominations for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency, which have been held up by the Republicans on the grounds that they don’t really like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency. The Labor Department appears likely to get a new leader the very second hell freezes over. Also, Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri has vowed to put a hold on EPA nominee Gina McCarthy until he gets a new flood-way project.
Serious problem for Washington: How do you get heads to roll when there aren’t any heads? Except for Attorney General Eric Holder, who’s been running the Justice Department for what seems like 100 years and appears linked to just about every disaster in the history of the Obama administration. I believe we may soon discover that he was the one who provided the would-be spy in Russia with a brown wig that looks like an obese cat.
People, this too shall pass. We’re in a moment, not a map for the entire Obama second term. It is, of course, possible that things will get worse and we’ll discover the president’s health care plan is, as Michele Bachmann claims, part of a plot to deny medical treatment to conservatives. Or things could get better. The White House seems to be getting some traction on the IRS. Maybe the economy will really improve, the scandals will run their course, and people will turn their attention to worthy causes like early childhood education or stopping climate change.
Admittedly, the last scenario is a long shot. And even if Barack Obama ascended into heaven, the Republicans would point out that before he went, the IRS picked on the tea party.
Maybe, while he’s crisis-managing, the president could also figure out a way to show people government working at something other than reorganizing troubled agencies. Maybe he could start off with passing a bill that’s supereasy. I notice that in state legislatures, when times are tough, parties are sometimes able to get together in order to pick a new state thing. You know, state bird, state animal. Some states find this so relaxing they never stop. (New Mexico has an official state guitar, state tie and state aircraft, which, unfortunately, is the hot-air balloon.)
The United States has a few of these items, like a bird and an anthem, but there’s plenty of territory to cover. The president could demand that Congress pick an official national rock. Committees could hold hearings about the relative merits of slate and granite. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell would threaten to filibuster unless his colleagues considered coal. But, in the end, I believe everybody would rally around a grand compromise for marble. And the country would feel much, much better.
Baby steps. Then we can get to the debt ceiling.
Gail Collins is a columnist for The New York Times.