Guns on the bar
By Larry Dreiling
In the Old West, the story goes, when a man rode his horse into town and stopped at the local saloon for a whiskey, the man was usually ordered by the bartender to take his pistol out of his holster and put it on the bar. The barkeep, who put the guns behind the bar for safekeeping, wouldn’t allow no drinking and shooting in his place.
Until a few days ago, we had both parties in Congress with their figurative guns in their holsters, ready to fire.
We all knew that one side would fire first. It’s just that most folks thought that one side was bluffing.
It makes me recall the story line of an old favorite war movie that has an allegorical spirit in the classic western genre of a showdown.
Those of us who were smart enough knew that Republicans, led by House Speaker John Boehner, were about to act like Sessue Hayakawa in “The Bridge On The River Kwai” and put a gun to the head of the Democrats, sort of like Alec Guinness, leaving observers like me to make like William Holden, saying, “He’s going to do it, believe me, he’s really going to do it!”
They did it.
The Republicans shut down the government.
So, now, the Democrats—heck, the government—are like Guinness in “the oven,” sitting there blanching in a dark box all alone while being intractable, while Hayakawa is being intractable about making the officers do labor on the bridge.
All the while, the bridge isn’t being built. And if the bridge isn’t finished by a certain date, well then, old Sessue’s character would have to kill himself.
If you remember the story, Guinness makes Hayakawa give up his plan to make the officers work, giving a big win to the British soldiers.
In the same way, it’s pretty clear this whole shutdown thing isn’t going to end well for the Republicans. The nation is at a standstill for the most part, and while Boehner won’t be committing ritual suicide, he’ll likely suffer the fate of his predecessor 17 years ago: out of the speaker’s chair.
Newt Gingrich is now a pundit. Guess Boehner will have time to brush up on his golf and curb his smoking habit.
The fiction and fact from these stories are twin sons of different mothers. That mother is the sin of pride. Whose sin, Hayakawa/Boehner or Guinness/Obama, is bigger here is the question.
That pride leaves both sides with guns drawn rather than on the bar so the two sides can sit down, maybe have a libation, and work this out like eastern dandies who might be akin to wearing bowler hats rather than something western when they rode into town.
It sort of raises the question: Is the sin of shutting down the government because one party doesn’t like the signature piece of legislation of a legitimately elected president bigger than the sin of not wanting to sit down with the other side? Could they say, “OK, I might agree with you there could be problems with this thing along the way. Let’s work to fix them as we go rather than throw the thing out”?
The pride of both sides has now reached a foolish climax, leaving President Barack Obama with the advantage but the people who elected him a big loser, which could mean his party could lose, too, if he gets too smart.
Democrats have already screwed up by not going along with a GOP proposal to allow a limited continuing resolution to fund veteran’s programs; to reopen the country’s national parks, monuments and museums; and to give the District of Columbia government its regular payment in lieu of taxes owed.
House Republicans, meanwhile, have merged the two parts of the farm bill they so wanted to separate. The Senate, and for that matter those of us in production agriculture, are still waiting to hear from Boehner who he has appointed to a conference committee on a reconciliation of the bills into legislation the president can sign.
The clock is ticking on that, since parts of the permanent law are creeping into effect. The whole kit and caboodle has to be wrapped up by the end of the year, otherwise consumers will be spending four times more on a gallon of milk.
It’s now time for both sides to end this drama, sit down together work this out.
Here’s my deal: Republicans reopen the government in exchange for Democrats tossing aside the tax on medical devices designed to pay for the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which stays put for now. The upcoming debt ceiling debate is no longer a debate. It goes up for another year, just like Ronald Reagan would do.
Neither side wins or loses, but the government reopens.
It’s time for the parties to not only put away their weapons but also put them on the bar until they get this worked out.
Use my plan. You’re welcome.
Larry Dreiling can be reached by phone at 785-628-1117, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.