Just Blowing Smoke: Debt Ceiling Debate – Harrumph!Written by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Not being the pop culture pundit that Michael Miller is, I find myself on foreign turf when using such references in writing about politics. I cannot help but be drawn to some rather obscure cinematic references however as I watch some of the debate going on in this country about raising the debt ceiling. This is not to say that we don’t expect more than a little theater in these days where speech writers and media consultants manage sound bites for elected officials far better than the major movie studios did for stars back in the day. Perhaps in fact, this media management makes it natural (and perhaps foreordained) that we draw such references to this latest national drama as it is being played out. Bear with me then, as I try to paint a rather confusing cinematic picture.
For starters we have the national debt itself, an imposing creature reminiscent of that in the 1958 classic “The Blob”, which grows to seemingly insurmountable size by swallowing every living thing it comes into contact with. Congress could certainly take some lessons from Steve McQueen, who seemed to understand that the only way to defeat such a creature is not by trying to kill it (which you can never do) but instead by trying to freeze it until it begins to shrink to a more manageable size.
To that, you can add a touch of Pat O’Brien playing “Knute Rockne All-American” from 1940, when the president delivers a classic half-time speech; informing both Congress and the public that it’s time to “pull off the Band-Aid” and “eat our peas”, before sending them out for the second half. (Perhaps his speech writers stumbled on these rather dubious references after seeing a similar comparison and determining that using, ‘winning one for the Gipper’ would fall far short of the mark; since that part in the movie was played by former Republican President Ronald Reagan.)
Throw in a healthy dose of the 1960 classic “Inherit the Wind” with legislators of both parties attempting to capture the spotlight by imitating the outstanding performance of Frederick March; and using belligerent pontification to define the principled stances of their own party, while demonizing those of their opponents as little more than political blasphemy.
Leaven in a dose of 1976’s Peter Finch performance as Howard Beale in “Network” to describe the reactions of most in the audience to the whole thing, that ‘they’re mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it any more’. And don’t forget to sprinkle in some of the shameless opportunism of Faye Dunaway, who sees the process as a chance to advance her own power and fortune; and the jaded disgust of William Holden’s character to represent those of us who have seen this kind of thing going on in Washington far too many times before to be moved by it.
Perhaps before we’re done, we’ll even be treated to a finale worthy of Cecil B DeMille’s “The Ten Commandments”, with the taxpayers being led out of the bondage of a trillion dollar deficit by the handing down of a compromise being written by fire in stone, and President Obama doing his best Charlton Heston performance as Moses handing down tablets worthy of the dramatic effort (and occasional over-acting) that has been exhibited.
Far more likely however, is that we will end up with an agreement in last moments of before the latest ‘deadline’ more like something from the 1974 Mel Brooks classic “Blazing Saddles”. I suspect that we could find a backroom in Washington DC where we will find a group of politicians mimicking Governor William J. LePetomane, as he informs the assembled cronies, “We have to protect our phony baloney jobs here, gentlemen! We must do something about this immediately! Immediately! Immediately! Harrumph! Harrumph! Harrumph!”