Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Opinion

Congress red and blue, but mostly blue

It's merely a guess, but this probably wasn't the first time U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had been invited to … uh, to … er, well just think of a Chris Rock routine meets Glengarry Glen Ross.

He is a politician after all, an occupation that can lead to the most inspired of colorfully profane characterizations. Here, try it yourself. Think Gov. Rick Scott. See how easy that was?

In Reid's case though, the physically impossible suggestion of what he should do to himself came from House Speaker John Boehner. The setting was steps away from the Oval Office when the speaker channeled his inner Lenny Bruce after running into the majority leader during the fiscal cliff imbroglio.

Apparently Boehner was miffed to distraction by Reid's comments the day before on the Senate floor that the speaker had turned the House into his own personal dictatorship.

To be sure, Boehner had every right to be peeved. After all, if Reid was of the opinion the speaker had turned into a tyrant, he certainly wasn't very good at wielding his oppressive powers.

As fearsome dictators go, Boehner falls somewhere between Aunt Bee and Sgt. Snorkle.

Dictator? Really now, Boehner imposed his iron will to unilaterally put off a Superstorm Sandy disaster relief vote to help displaced families that was virtually certain to pass with bipartisan support. That's hardly dictatorial. Dumber than a sack of snipes perhaps, but not exactly in Pol Pot territory.

This is far from the first time that political discourse has morphed into the script for The Big Lebowksi. In 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney got royally pinched over accusations leveled by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy that the former Halliburton executive had engaged in war profiteering.

Despite a strong argument of truth as a defense, on the Senate floor Cheney suggested Leahy should … hmmm, how to put this … commit a Harry Reid. That's the ticket.

Then there was Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, who quite publicly extended the international single-digit gesture symbolizing all the aforementioned verbs, nouns, adverbs and adjectives during a 1976 campaign stop.

Perhaps it seems that Republicans might have the corner on mastering the art of impersonating Jon Gruden. No so. Vice President Joe Biden has demonstrated he, too, knows his way around the alphabet, especially between the letters "e" and "g" when he reminded President Barack Obama after the Affordable Care Act was passed as to what a …big fabulous (more or less) deal it all was into an open microphone.

Perhaps it was indelicate of Boehner to address a peer with a four-letter word within the confines of the White House. But if history has taught us anything, we know that presidents such as Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson were no slouches in potty mouth talk. It was Richard Nixon captured on the Watergate tapes who led to the phrase "expletive deleted" entering the national lexicon.

If the walls of the Oval Office could talk, they would sound like Samuel L. Jackson in Snakes on a Plane.

At the same time the Boehner/Reid blue Bickersons dust-up exposed what we probably already knew. It is contrary to all the obligatory rhetorical protocols where members of Congress refer to each other as "my good friend." Those folks have less of a collegial relationship than Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie.

In fact the fiscal cliff cluster circus provided a rare insight into how these folks really regard one another. Boehner and Obama don't trust each other. Boehner and Reid … you know about that. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Reid stopped blowing air-kisses back and forth a long time ago. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner came to be viewed as the Eddie Haskell of the economy. And nobody wanted to deal with Obama's chief of staff Jack Lew because he's annoying.

Eventually it took Biden to finally negotiate an end to the self-inflicted fiscal cliff crisis. It tells you something about the Beltway's dysfunction when Biden emerges as the adult in the room.

Do you get the feeling the most powerful nation on the face of the planet is being governed by the student council in Napoleon Dynamite?

In the end, Boehner's turn as the Andrew Dice Clay of the Capitol might well have provided a valuable public service.

After all, didn't Boehner unwittingly perhaps pretty much capture what the rest of the nation was thinking about that parallel universe known as Washington?

Comments

Another voice: Privacy in the internet age

How much information about you is on your cellphone? Likely the most intimate details of your life: photographs, internet searches, text and email conversations with friends and colleagues. And though you might not know it, your phone is constantly c...
Published: 12/10/17
Updated: 12/11/17
Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Editorial: Grand jury could force reforms of juvenile justice system

Confronted with documentation of sanctioned brutality and sexual abuse in Floridaís juvenile detention centers, the reaction from Gov. Rick Scottís administration was defensive and obtuse. So itís welcome news that Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine...
Published: 12/08/17
Updated: 12/11/17

Editorial: U.S. House sides with NRA over stateís rights on concealed weapons permits

With the horror of the mass shootings at a Las Vegas country music concert and a small Texas church still fresh, the U.S. House finally has taken action on guns. But the bill it passed last week wonít make Americans safer from gun violence. It is an ...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

Editorial: Hillsborough cannot afford pay raises for teachers

There is no satisfaction for anyone in the standoff over pay raises between the Hillsborough County School District and its teachers. Most teachers across the nation already are underpaid, but this district simply cannot afford the raises teachers ex...
Published: 12/07/17
Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

Editorial: Impact of Water Street project extends beyond buildings

With a buildout of $3 billion encompassing entire city blocks, itís obvious that Jeff Vinikís plans will change the look and feel of downtown Tampa. But the Tampa Bay Lightning owner unveiled a broader vision last week that reflects how far the impac...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/08/17
Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

Editorial: Make texting while driving a primary offense

It is dangerous and illegal to text while driving in Florida, and police should be able to pull over and ticket those lawbreakers without witnessing another violation first. House Speaker Richard Corcoran has lent his powerful voice to legislation th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Editorial: Outsourcing common sense on St. Petersburg Pier naming rights

St. Petersburg officials predict that selling the naming rights to parts of the new Pier could generate $100,000 in annual revenue. But first the city wants to pay a consultant to tell it how and to whom to sell the rights. Why do city officials need...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17

Another voice: Trumpís risky move

President Donald Trumpís decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israelís capital has a certain amount of common sense on its side. As a practical matter, West Jerusalem has been the seat of Israeli government since 1949, and no conceivable formula for Pa...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

Editorial: Tampaís MOSI reinvents itself

A tactical retreat and regrouping seems to be paying off for Hillsborough Countyís Museum of Science and Industry. After paring back its operations, the museum posted a small profit over the past year, enabling the attraction to keep its doors open a...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Times recommends: McClure for Florida House District 58

Voters in Temple Terrace, Plant City and Thonotosassa have an easy choice in the Dec. 19 special election to replace state Rep. Dan Raulerson, who resigned for health reasons. Republican Lawrence McClure is the only credible candidate.McClure, 30, ow...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/07/17