Bob Franken




It was 1973 when the hit movie “The Way We Were” was released, starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford as an unlikely couple with divergent political beliefs and backgrounds. It came with a haunting title song, sung by Streisand.
While most of us wouldn’t want to “light the corners of my mind” with recent memories — unless you’re into nightmares — if it were to be remade about the current political climate, it would be called “Maga,” another way of saying “the way we were.”
Redford would definitely not be playing any of the main characters. Donald Trump, after dominating the twisted plots and subplots for so many years, has been written out of the script, although he is resisting mightily. Despite their statements of support for the Donald’s futile efforts, the couple really trying to recall their relationship of so many years ago would be Joe Biden and Mitch McConnell.
That would make some risky assumptions. It would suppose that Trump had exhausted all of his various subterfuges and had been dragged kicking and screaming out of the executive mansion, the one he renamed Mara White House. It would also hypothesize that McConnell would maintain his position as the opposition’s majority leader of the Senate — a likely prospect, because any other scenario would assume the Democrats had been successful in both Georgia runoff elections to choose the state’s U.S. senators. Given the Democrats’ track record, that would be far-fetched.
The likelihood is that President Biden and Sen. McConnell will resume playing “Let’s Make a Deal,” a throwback to the good old days of the Swamp, when they were both Swamp Creatures.
“Can it be that it was all so simple then? Or has time rewritten every line?”
True, time has rewritten every line. Now so many lines appear as Twitter or Facebook misinformation — actually, let’s call them what they are: lies. But still, it is worth a try to achieve what’s necessary to rescue America, by returning to some good old-fashioned give-and-take. “Compromise” isn’t necessarily a profane word and McConnell and Biden helped write the book on negotiation.
That’s not a book written by an amateur like Trump, even though he had the bestseller “The Art of the Deal” ghost-written for him, which is really akin to “The Idiot’s Guide to Negotiation.” There are reasons why President Trump failed miserably when he tried to bargain with Congress, to say nothing of those sharpies on the international stage.

Mitch and Joe know how the back room game is played. Back in late 2012, when Biden was vice president in Barack Obama’s administration and McConnell was still the Republican leader in the Senate, the United States was about to welch on its debts. The two warring parties were locked in intransigence over raising the borrowing limit. The U.S. faced the calamity of not being able to pay its financial obligations. It would be the first time in history that the country defaulted.
At the last minute, McConnell reached across party lines and made a phone call to Biden. Both had honed their skills with decades of Senate experience together. So when McConnell dialed from his Capitol office to Biden in the White House, all he had to say was, “Does anyone down there know how to cut a deal?” They certainly did, and a few hours later, the nation had been rescued at the last minute from mortification.
Will these two 78-year-olds be able to gloss over the extreme antagonisms that have paralyzed our country, built up over the ensuing decades and exacerbated by Donald Trump’s demagoguery? Or is it too late? Will Trump’s sludge, as he plots a comeback and still manages to confuse his misled 70 million supporters, gum up the works, making governing impossible? Is the United States of America trapped in that abyss, inevitably falling into just historical memory?
As Marilyn Bergman, Allen Bergman and Marvin Hamlisch’s title song “The Way We Were” puts it:
“If we had the chance to do it all again, tell me, would we, could we?”
Can we?

© 2020 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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