Imagine the following scenario: It's 2019. Chris Christie is president, but the House of Representatives is controlled by Democrats. Despite that, Christie got his signature piece of legislation passed — banning Staten Islanders from coming to the Jersey Shore. It even withheld a court challenge that went all the way to the Supreme Court.
But days before the law really got rolling, far-left members of the United States Congress — let's call them the Chamomile Tea Party — banded together to hold the country hostage. They wouldn't pass a spending bill unless the Republicans agreed to scuttle the president's anti-Staten Island legislation.
So what happened next? We'll get to that in a moment, but obviously, the above politically charged scenario is pretty much what's happening right now, particulars notwithstanding. President Barack Obama's health-care plan is the legislation, and members of the Tea Party (or at least a small cadre of far-right Republicans) have shut the government down because they won't pass a spending bill without the Democrats dumping Obamacare.
You'd think this would light a fire under the president, and maybe he'd start acting like Rocky in the second Clubber Lang fight.
You'd think wrong.
Because from where I'm sitting, President Obama seems like he's doing a whole bunch of nothing. Kind of like a wimp allowing himself to get bullied.
And so ... back to the Staten Island scenario laid out above. Do you think, for one second, Christie would sit back and allow the Chamomile Tea Party to slap him around? Do you think he'd be able to bite his tongue? Do you think he'd actually shaddup his face?
I don't think he'd be physically capable of such acts. He'd be screaming, yelling, carrying on. In fact, I'd say it's even odds the network news would have to “bleep” Christie. F-bombs would be on the table.
And yeah, before you ask, I think that would be a good thing. That's the kind of leadership we need right now. We need a screamer-in-chief. We need someone to put these fools in their place. And make no mistake — these are fools. Put politics aside for a moment and see it for what it is: A fringe group in the House shutting down the government simply because they don't like a law, while the party leadership refuses to do anything about it. It's flat-out wrong.
And Obama ... well, Obama seems to be hanging around. And the shutdown continues. And we get closer to Oct. 17, when Congress has to vote on raising the debt ceiling. And if they don't raise it ...well, no one knows what's going to happen. Everything from “nothing” to “total worldwide financial collapse” is on the table. (To be clear about this “debt ceiling” thing: Congress authorizes spending. The government spends, on things like Social Security, wars, the military, etc. To raise the debt ceiling simply means raising the limit on what the United States Treasury can borrow — and this is the important part —to pay back existing debt. To use the simple, if flawed credit card analogy: Not raising the debt limit would be like not paying your credit card bill. It's not, as many assume, like getting a higher credit limit to spend on new shiny things. And if America stops paying its debts ... well, that's the great unknown. Anyway ...)
Anyway, if there was ever a time for a president to stand behind a podium and call out, loudly and by name, the people who are causing this mess, now is that time. The American people are practically begging for Obama to do this. A recent CNN poll has only 10 percent(!) of the American public approving of the job Congress is doing. That's insane.
Obama needs to stop being the calm, cool and collected guy he is. It's time for him to get mad and to show it. Maybe he should start smoking again, fire up a Marlboro and start pointing it, with anger, at the camera as he speaks. Get the country to understand who's responsible for this situation.
This is what Obama actually said the other day: “As long as I am president, I will not give in to reckless demands by some in the Republican Party to deny affordable health insurance to millions of hard-working Americans.”
And no one paid attention.
If Christie had the mike?
“Listen, I'm the president, the law passed, period, end of story. These idiots who are causing this mess? We'd be better off if they jumped in the Potomac with cement shoes on their feet.”
Can you imagine Obama saying something like that, getting all New Jersey-like on his enemies?
We could use it, though. Because sometimes the only voice that gets heard is the loud, booming, angry and obnoxious one. Fight fire with bombs, I say.
Jeff Edelstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook.com/jeffreyedelstein and @jeffedelstein on Twitter.