Thursday, December 20, 2012

Grover Norquist: The Chauncey Gardiner of Our Time

President "Bobby": Mr. Gardner, do you agree with Ben, or do you think that we can stimulate growth through temporary incentives?
[Long pause]
Chance the Gardener: As long as the roots are not severed, all is well. And all will be well in the garden.
President "Bobby": In the garden.
Chance the Gardener: Yes. In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.
President "Bobby": Spring and summer.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
President "Bobby": Then fall and winter.
Chance the Gardener: Yes.
Benjamin Rand: I think what our insightful young friend is saying is that we welcome the inevitable seasons of nature, but we're upset by the seasons of our economy.
Chance the Gardener: Yes! There will be growth in the spring!
Benjamin Rand: Hmm!
Chance the Gardener: Hmm!
President "Bobby": Hm. Well, Mr. Gardner, I must admit that is one of the most refreshing and optimistic statements I've heard in a very, very long time.
[Benjamin Rand applauds]
President "Bobby": I admire your good, solid sense. That's precisely what we lack on Capitol Hill.
--"Being There"  (The Movie)

Listening to the pundits on TV this morning, I was struck by a memory of a women I interviewed years ago. She had been a highly visible ambassador and a cabinet secretary and she was a constant presence on talk shows. It became clear to me, after a few minutes, she was deep into Alzheimer's. She was careful to keep all her answers in generalities, and could not answer questions which required any detail, like, "What did you have for breakfast this morning."  You'd get, "Oh, the offerings of the kitchen are altogether pleasant."

Two weeks later I saw her interviewed on a Sunday morning talk show, and she answered in the same lovely, general phrases, and nobody seemed to suspect she had no clue where she was or who was in the studio with her.

And now, I see pundits, Congressmen and Senators interviewed who say we have to cut "entitlements" by cutting expenditures on Medicare and when asked how to do this we hear vague generalities about, "improving competition,"  and "streamlining" and gaining "efficiencies" and eliminating "fraud and abuse," and I know I am looking at people who do not have a clue. They are, like Grover Norquist, great on images and phrases. They want to drown government and its inefficiencies in a bathtub, but they have no clue what that actually would mean.

These are the empty men and women, with brains of mush, who appear on our TV screens and get paid big bucks for looking and sounding presentable. We make them into what we need and we follow them over the brink.

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