10.31.10

Give the People What They Want

On Tuesday, throw out all the bums—Democrat, Republican, and anyone who makes sense. Leslie H. Gelb on who would be left: Jim DeMint, Sarah Palin, and Chris Matthews.

To be sane in a world of madmen is itself a form of insanity, warned the great 19th-century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. Right on, Georg. Jon Stewart's weekend call for "sanity" shows he doesn't understand 21st-century democracy. So, after this election, forget sanity and civility, and let's just give the people what they want and deserve. Let's vote out every Washington leader who has ever betrayed symptoms of reasonableness and pragmatism. We're sick and tired of those types. We the people don't want RESULTS, we want SOMETHING FOR NOTHING.

Here's the platform the new Washington can succor: We want good schools, but don't fire bad teachers. We want budget deficits wiped out without raising taxes and only by cutting spending. We don't want to say what spending to cut because that would be socialist. Eliminate the Education Department and the State Department, but keep the Small Business Administration and the Marines. Stop regulating Wall Street and the banks, which is something only Hitler and Stalin would do. Let the National Rifle Association handle illegal immigrants. Provide free medical care to all Americans, including illegal immigrants, as God wants. And don't forget—everything depends on cutting taxes.

To carry out this agenda will require some new leadership in capital quarters, but far less than you would suppose. Start with the House of Representatives with its new Republican majority. No need to worry about John Boehner, the present Republican leader. His demonstrated commitment to ignorance about almost every public-policy question certainly qualifies him fully to be Speaker of the House. Though Joe Barton, who saliently said that President Obama was mistreating BP after the oil spill, also deserves consideration. As for Nancy Pelosi, her track record as a Speaker—shepherdess of thousands of bills through that chamber without knowing what was in them or how to pay for them—suggests Democrats should anoint her their Minority Leader. Those skills are hard to duplicate. More qualified people like Representatives Steny Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen should continue to learn at her feet.

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As for the Senate, where Democrats will retain control, Harry Reid's nearly unblemished track record of ineptitude makes him even more suited to the future than the past. Far more ept senators like Dick Durbin and Chuck Schumer will have to learn to be less coherent if they wish to succeed him. But it looks like Reid won't be around much longer anyway. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky should be toast as Senate Minority Leader. He failed to deliver a Republican majority in the Senate despite his total resistance to any compromise with the White House. His unreasonableness was dwarfed by his soft voice. And there's an obvious and noble successor for Mitch—Senator Jim DeMint of the great state of South Carolina. He's the Tea Party incarnate and has demonstrated great potential to symbolize the get-something-for-nothing theme.

The Most Political StatesThe White House could stand pat. This group—like the president himself—already knows how to do something that just can't be taught. They have mastered the art of 17 POINTS. That means that whatever the question, the answer must have 17 points and no main point. Main points are for Republicans, who oversimplify. There's absolutely no sense in going out and procuring a new chief of staff like Erskine Bowles, the head of the North Carolina University system and former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. Bowles would only insist on having priorities, which Democrats regard as totalitarian. Same goes for installing Paul Volcker as the economic czar with help from one of the most respected and honest men on Wall Street—Vincent Mai of AEA Investors. Practical is yesterday. It is reassuring to have a president and White House staff that go about asking, "Why aren't we getting the credit for all the good things we do?"

Cable television news also will have no difficulty adjusting to this saneless capital. Indeed, it helped to create sanelessness. You know, 24-hour coverage of a truck crash in Bolivia, where every interviewee says he doesn't have enough information yet. You know, no substance or policy, just politics, politics, and more politics. Sane and professional newscasters such as Brian Williams and Lawrence O'Donnell will have to go, of course. But those who remain should model themselves on MSNBC's Chris Matthews. His M.O. harmonizes unerringly with the spirit of these democratic times: Say you love almost every guest. Don't let any guest finish a sentence. And don't listen to the answer. It works. The people love this style. Most sentences are too long anyway.

Chris Matthews’ M.O. harmonizes unerringly with the spirit of these democratic times: Say you love almost every guest. Don’t let any guest finish a sentence. And don’t listen to the answer.

As will already be plain to readers, tea partiers and Democratic left-wingers agitated themselves unnecessarily about Washington. Our nation's capital was very well on its way to sanelessness.

But a bit more elixir never hurts. And should Washington's denizens do as the people desire and give Americans what they want, then in 2013, Washington could have the ultimate leader it truly deserves—Sarah Palin. As the people say, we can only pray.

Leslie H. Gelb, a former New York Times columnist and senior government official, is author of Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy (HarperCollins 2009), a book that shows how to think about and use power in the 21st century. He is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations.