Drunk or Crazy or Worse Both?

Two articles caught my eye recently. They were not meant to be read together like the point-counterpoints we see on the front page of the Sunday op-ed section. Indeed, they came from different ends of the earth and different places on the left right political axis, but reading them together raised a question – maybe even an insight – that neither raised separately nor at all for that matter.

David Ignatius wrote the first – A Political DUI – in The Washington Post on February 26. “We have a political system that is the equivalent of a drunk driver. The primary culprits are House Republicans. They are so intoxicated with their ideology that they are ready to drive the nation’s car off the road.” He goes on to lay some of the blame at the feet of the President and concludes, “There’s one ruinously dysfunctional part of the American story, and that’s the breakdown of our political system. It is time for an intervention, to take the keys away.”

An Australian called Hal G. P. Colebatch, whose Wikipedia page suggests a conservative outlook, wrote the second, entitled His Queeg Moment. It appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and was republished in the American Spectator. He sets his stage with, “Suddenly the malcontent Lieutenant Keefer asks the others: ‘Does it occur to you that Captain Queeg may be insane?’  In fact Queeg is not insane, at least not at that time. He is simply grappling, more and more disastrously, with a job too big for him. Come the crisis of a typhoon, he becomes paralyzed and nearly sinks the ship by failing to give the obvious orders. At the subsequent court-martial he appears quite normal until he breaks down under the pressure of cross-examination. Before this, the officers have searched the regulations for guidance, but the regulations refer only to a captain who is clearly and unmistakably insane, not one who is merely guilty of eccentricity and bad judgment. At a lower level of responsibility, Queeg might have performed adequately, but with Keefer’s question, the remaining respect for Queeg’s office has gone.”

Then he speculates that President Obama resembles Captain Queeg.

Ignatius points most of his fingers at the right and accuses them of being drunks, while Colebatch points a single finger at the left and questions the President’s sanity.

Likely neither is entirely correct but taken together their observations are not good signs.  Drunk or nuts? You would have to be one or the other to be reacting as our elected officials are to the country’s challenges.

Absent pretty convincing evidence, assuming that a person is either drunk or crazy seems rarely to be a winning strategy. Usually, the people in question are actually doing something we don’t understand.

Is it possible that the President and the Republican leaders are listening to nobody other than their political advisors whose time horizons extend only as far as November 2014? If so, that would both explain their conduct and support the idea that they are either drunk or out of their minds.

Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, who has already taken the economic policy keys away, cannot be counted on to stave off a financial meltdown indefinitely. Anyone who thinks otherwise could well be accused of being drunk or crazy or worse both.

One Response to “Drunk or Crazy or Worse Both?”

Ashley Higgins, March 08, 2013 at 7:25 pm said:

“Usually, the people in question are actually doing something we don’t understand.”

I think we do understand. We can assume political hegemony (and getting re-elected) is one goal, not just for 2014 but beyond as well.

But we know that the the participants have beliefs and principles, and to a large extent the “disfunction” in Washington, D.C., is a substantive clash between persons holding principles and beliefs that cannot be compromised or reconciled with the principlea and beliefs of the other persons. In other words, the political system is working now about the same as it did for Whigs and Jeffersonians.

It is, to me, disingenuous to say the president is crazy when, in fact, he has declared time and again that he intends to fundamentally transform the Umited States according to his beliefs and princples and has ceaselessly worked toward that goal in an entirely rational manner.

It is laughable to call the House Republicans drunk drivers. (Doesn’t anyone in D.C. get tired of these hackneyed metaphors and similies? Or do the intellects of the punditocracy just naturally yearn for the womb-like comfort and shelter of triteness?)

There really is a serious political conflict between left and right. It is not just about money or debt or anything Ben Bernanke can screw up. It is about whether that fundamental (substantive) transformation will continue to occur. And, for me, it seems that the claim that the system is disfunctional is merely a claim that the side you don’t agree with might win unless the procedural rules are changed.

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