Friday, December 14, 2012

Wash your hands and play fair!


Here’s some good news:  The President and the Speaker of the House have agreed not to speak publicly about their negotiations toward resolving the great, fear-laden, nightmare-inducing “fiscal cliff.”  You know, the most recent thing we’re supposed to be in a lather about.

 But maybe we shouldn’t take this precipice too lightly.  After all, the deadline for averting that lulu of a last step falls on the date of the Mayan calendar’s end of days.  Who knows?  It could be that a Senate page pointed this out to our elected officials; hence their retreat into actual conversation and compromise.

 In point of fact, as much as I have clinched my teeth in preparation for the fall, I have dreaded more each new day’s reporting of the posturing and role-playing of the parties of both parts. 

 So, news of their silence is most welcome.  They are to be commended for their shutting up.

 Seriously, I know how hard it can be.  Sometimes, a person can’t stop herself from turning that clever phrase.  I just love a last word, a well-placed bon mot!
 
Why just the other day, I was one-upping a 2-year-old about the proper method for eating an artichoke.  I had him too!  He couldn’t overcome my lifetime of artichoke eating experience or my superior finger strength. 
 
But then, in a stunning turn of events, an ambush!  He reached up and touched my face! 
 
OK!  That was totally unexpected!  Dumbfounded, I had to concede.  You win, Little Buddy.  You win.
 
Of course I doubt that the President will touch the Speaker’s face.  For one thing, it’s unclear that they’ve been in the same room with each other since the last looming catastrophe.  Let’s see, what was that one?  Oh yeah, the budget deficit.  (In spiritual circles we call this recurring phenomenon “deja` poo”:  The creepy feeling we’ve heard this crap-ola before.)    

 On the other hand, if there were to be touching, the President would get first dibs.  Executive privilege.  Protocol.  Pulling rank.  Whatever you call it, in terms of debate strategy, it wouldn’t leave the Speaker any ground for recovery.  Everything’s second best after the first touch.  Mr. Boehner would likely burst into tears; pick up his toys and go.

 I don’t think a touch would be out of line, and it is disarming.  But the President’s a classy guy.  Even though you know that at the very least he wants to throw a pie, considering the Speaker’s propensities, he would probably extrapolate Robert Fulghum’s Rule #3 – “Don’t hit people,” and keep his hands to himself.   

Fulghum’s sweet and simple maxims to live by, found in his book All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten might well benefit our hapless representatives whose only stated motivation for resolving the nation’s financial debacle is getting home for the holidays. 

 God love ‘em.  If they would only follow Rule #13 – “Hold hands and stick together!”  That’s how compromises are made.

 Depending on your point of view, and on the outcome of this latest squabble in the Capitol, we might end up asserting that Rule #1 prevailed:  “Share everything.”  Or maybe we’ll get a true miracle of planning and execution following Rule #5 – “Clean up your own mess.” 

Fulghum got wordier as he went along, averaging only 4.8 words each in the first ten rules, then 26 words in Rule #11 alone.  Given that he allowed himself to go on and on, it’s surprising he stopped at sixteen rules.   

In these times of politicians needing guidance in the workplace, his Rule #17 might read something like this: “When you’re negotiating with your colleagues to resolve the complex finances of the United States of America, allow them to share the fruits of their hard work and acknowledge their ideas before your take your turn sharing yours.  

Or for their sake, we could speak simply: Rule #17 – Shut up.  Rule #18 – Listen to each other.  Rule #19 – Use the best of everyone’s ideas. 

Of course Fulghum never would be so crass or so terse.   

And since those guys in Washington so often behave like 2-year-olds, we may wind up with another punt of deal that delays disaster, but solves nothing.    

That’s when we can resort to Rule #9 – “Flush.”