Bob Franken

Blair House Washingtonspeak

Was that great Reality Television or what? What a gimmick: Stuff as many stuffy people into a stuffy room, let them say some stuff. Then, at the end if the season we can decide who is voted out. Actually, maybe it was a game show. Or situation comity.

Whatever. It was gripping TV. Chances are, though, there should be subtitles, because all of the contestants were talking in Washingtonspeak, an obsolete language, where most of the words translate into the exact opposite of what normal people think they mean.

This is just a small sample:

Civility. Insincerity
Bipartisan. Obsolete
Discussion. Sound bites
Reconciliation. Irreconcilable Differences

That last one is the key. “Reconciliation” as in ramming Health Care through Congress using an arcane legislative process that allows Democrats, with their majority, to ignore the minority Republicans’ squeals of outrage as they get steamrollered.
But before he can say “No More Mr. Nice Guy”, Master-Of-Ceremonies Obama needed to be able to declare “Well I tried”. Hence the Made-For-Tv-Stay-On-The-Script marathon.

Mindful of the public disgust over the political infection that paralyzes Washington, both sides needed to pretend they wanted to reason together. There are some obvious cures for what ails them, such as talking TO each other instead of AT but unfortunately, the “Competition of Ideas” is complicated. Simple minded phrase-mongering and gimmickry are scintillating so right now our leaders are sticking with “Bloodsport”.

President Obama was able to put a move on the Republicans and sucker them into his home studio. It was a struggle before the beginning. The two sides even maneuvered over the set…if you call one table a “set”. There was no escaping, though, that this was the President’s domain, so he was running the show. He made sure everyone could see he was in charge.

What fun it was to watch the polite give-and-take between actors and actresses masking their seething contempt for each other. There were actually moments where the participants gave hints that were not mere robots but for the most part, they were epitome of self-control. It’s amazing how the real pros can be so deceptive and convincing. They didn’t really need those masks. They seemed to thrive as they breathed in the toxic atmosphere and spewed out their own poison.

Actually we need to add to our list:

“I welcome your input” “What a stupid comment”
“Interesting idea” “A crock”

The marathon accomplished what everyone hoped it would, which was nothing, unless more bridge burning is viewed as accomplishment.

It needs a title. How about “Charades”, since that’s a party game. Unfortunately, the parties are the Republicans and Democrats, so these days everyone seems to lose. That’s because in this pantomime there is but one gesture. I don’t need to tell you what it is.

As for the dialogue:

“Government”. “Politics”

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