An old vaudeville joke went like this: “Do I look like an idiot? Do I look like a jerk who doesn’t know what’s going on? Do you think I’m dumb? Don’t answer that!”
The sequester, with its draconian cuts, was an idea both sides considered so bad, so awful, so incredibly dumb that SURELY no responsible politician, political leader or party would let it stand.
And here we are. The word “sequester” brings to mind the Spanish word “secuestro,” which means kidnapping. Sequestration held selected programs in a meat-cleaver-cutting ransom unless the political class displayed an assumed minimal political I.Q. by compromising, so held-for-ransom programs didn’t suffer the consequences. Pundits now argue over which side will suffer the most political damage from the big cuts that weren’t supposed to happen.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie -- the guy with the 74 percent home state approval rating who the conservative CPAC group pointedly didn’t invite to its gathering because he won’t always parrot the conservative or Republican Party line -- is notably unimpressed by both Obama and Republicans.
“I don’t understand it, I don’t understand why they haven’t fixed it already,” he told reporters. “It seems to me that it should be pretty easy to fix. Real leadership would get this fixed. Get everybody in the room and you fix it and you don’t let them leave until you fix it. That’s what real leadership is; not calling a meeting two hours before the thing’s going to hit to have a photo-op in the driveway at the White House. That’s not real leadership. Fix it!”
Then he added: “If anybody in this room thinks they understand Washington, D.C., please come on up, stand behind the podium and you give the answers, because I don’t have the first damn idea of what they’re doing down there.”
Neither do they.
The sequester proves that all drips aren’t found in Marco Rubio’s water bottle. It suggests America’s post-Greatest Generation leaders -- particularly baby boomers still acting out 1960s-derived polarizations -- are seemingly unworthy of the elected positions they hold when compared to leaders who held their positions in the past.
Partisans and analysts always offer a logical spin for today’s gridlock and hackery. There’s always a partisan talking point, a partisan choir and a partisan echo chamber. But when you compare the political leadership of generations past and today’s, you have to think: there must have been a secret political sequester because America’s leadership is now downsized.
It’s fascinating to watch members of Congress with government-supplied health care, millionaire radio and cable talk hosts, and well-paid pundits, eagerly call for cuts that will cause pain to working families, the poor, children and the elderly. These politicos and pundits won’t feel the cuts. If consensus and compromise are now considered oh, so 20th century, so is the once-valued idea of empathy.
Some analysts such as The National Journal’s Charlie Cook now sadly conclude that our leaders’ inability to seriously tackle America’s debt means the sequester is perhaps “a bad idea whose time has come” since it’ll result in at least some cuts. But, no matter what happens, political class has now defined itself:
“Do we look like a bunch of people incapable of putting aside partisan differences and ignoring pressures from our parties’ bases and interest groups? Do we look like we’re constantly calculating how our every move and utterance will help our parties in their 24/7 drives to win and cling to power? Do some of us look like we couldn’t care less what happens to America’s weakest and neediest? Do we look like political Tom Thumbs next to the political Jolly Green Giants of past decades? Don’t answer that!”
Polls -- and history books -- will.
Joe Gandelman is a veteran journalist who wrote for newspapers overseas and in the United States. He has appeared on cable news show political panels and is Editor-in-Chief of The Moderate Voice, an Internet hub for independents, centrists and moderates. CNN’s John Avlon named him as one of the top 25 Centrists Columnists and Commentators. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org