Government Spending

Washington, DC: Capital of The Absurd

Why the nation's capital is a clown show consumed by trivialities


Like most of this company town, I'm addicted to Netflix's Beltway "telenovela," House of Cards, starring Kevin Spacey as a conspiratorial House majority whip. But the show unwittingly flatters D.C., depicting a city of ruthless, steely competence. The real thing is a clown show consumed by trivialities.

For example, on his way into work Friday, a friend heard the Senate chaplain's cry for help, broadcast over WTOP: "As we anticipate across-the-board budget cuts across our land, we still expect to see your goodness prevail," Pastor Barry Black pleaded from the Senate floor, "O God, and save us from ourselves."

To the biblical plagues of locusts, pestilence and the culling of the firstborn, add a 2.3 percent cut in federal government spending for fiscal 2013? What's really worth some wailing and gnashing of teeth is that, faced with a $900 billion deficit and $16 trillion-plus federal debt, Congress and the president only managed those meager cuts by accident—through a "poison pill" gimmick that nobody believed would be triggered.

Or take last week's silly controversy over whether the administration "threatened" Watergate scribe Bob Woodward for reporting that the sequester was the Obama team's idea. Woodward's tall tale of intimidation should have vanished when Politico released the relevant emails, a decorous exchange between economic adviser Gene Sperling and Woodward. Sperling: "I apologize for raising my voice … [but] as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim … " Woodward: "You do not ever have to apologize to me … "

Yet "Woodwardgate" dominated the Sunday talk shows. If you wanted some substance, you had to tune into ABC's This Week, where George Stephanopoulos was interviewing Dennis "the Worm" Rodman about North Korea.

Last Thursday, National Journal's Ron Fournier echoed Woodward's claim that the Obamaites are "abusive." The next day, Fournier was so upset that there'd been no deal to avert the sequester cuts, he tweeted, "bin Laden didn't compromise. [Obama] handled him pretty well." So, a Seal Team Six "double tap" for Speaker Boehner?

Woodward, too, oscillates between power-worship and whining that the White House is mean. He told MSNBC: "Under the Constitution, the president is commander in chief and employs the force. … [W]e now have the president going out because of this piece of paper and this agreement, 'I can't do what I need to do to protect the country.' That's a kind of madness that I haven't seen in a long time."

That "piece of paper" is a law the president signed. But in Woodward's evolving view, "if the president does it, it's not illegal." As my colleague Ben Friedman cracked, "I knew 'All the President's Men' was a bad, misleading book, but I didn't realize Nixon was the hero."

Completing his descent into self-parody, on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Woodward invited Obama to come to his house for a beer summit to give everyone fake closure on a fake scandal.

Meanwhile, as Jim Antle points out in the American Conservative, despite appearances, bipartisanship abounds: "The same Congress that barely averted the fiscal cliff swiftly passed extensions of warrantless wiretapping and indefinite detention" and favors "profligate drone use." They mainly bicker when the bill for the welfare-warfare state comes due.

On Friday, The Washington Post ran yet another long-faced, hand-wringing feature on how locals are coping with sequestration. "Beleaguered bureaucrats, anxious government contractors and ripple-effect worriers are in dire need of a little levity," so some are heading to comedy clubs to laugh through the tears.

"We all get it," one local comic told the Post. "You have to be able to make jokes and laugh about this situation we're in." Hah, ha. Heh. "O God, save us from ourselves," indeed.

This article originally appeared in The Washington Examiner.

NEXT: U.S. Airports Report No Sign of Napolitano's Claimed Sequester Delays

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  1. For a more believable DC show, I recommend Veep.

    1. This. Incompetent, banal, and delusional. A much more realistic depiction of the people Tony so unquestioningly worships.

      1. I tried to watch Veep. It made me squirm too much. What should have made me laugh instead caused murderous rage.

        If British Marines returned and burned DC to the ground again, I would thank them as long as nobody escaped alive.

        1. So you take the Vorlon approach to pest removal?

        2. My dad told me that if DC and its inhabitants were to suddenly vanish and nobody outside the city knew it, after a few weeks people would start saying things like, “I don’t know what it is, but things seem like they’re getting better.”

          A guy can dream.

    2. Speaking of TV shows, anyone watch Vikings last night?

      I thought it was decent, and of course Gabriell Byrne is a big plus, but the jury is still out if it will find its feet or not.

    3. I thought it would be funny. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, right, it’s going to be funny. Yeah, well, it was unwatchable.

  2. DC’s problem is accepting as an article of faith that all good things flow from govt. Anyone who questions that is treated as a heretic.

  3. A house of cards
    A strong breeze
    52 pickup

  4. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of the surface of the absurdity of DC.

    1. And it’s absurdity all the way down.

    2. I really hate going to that city these days.

      Whenever I meet someone who works for some absurd “foundation” dedicated to teaching cats in Somalia to dance or holds a job in the Office for the Undersecretary to the Deputy Director of the “Who The Fuck Cares” I can’t wait until they go away.

      Then I see the high rises and fancy cars…

  5. In other news, Pat Leahy is a maggoty cunt. From the CNN article about his new gun trafficking (and apparently ammo trafficking) bill:

    He also said the law would help prevent repeats of the deadly bungles that occurred in Arizona along the border with Mexico during Operation Fast and Furious by giving border patrollers a solid legal framework to catch smugglers with….

    “I hope that those who have been concerned about Fast and Furious, whose investigation established that it was the local ATF agents in Arizona who initiated and so poorly implemented that effort, will join with us to close the loophole in the law that Mexican drug cartels are continuing to exploit,” Leahy said.

    1. So the gun laws were the problem, not the agents who were giving the guns to the drug cartels?

    2. I really wish the Joker had cut his throat in the movie. I mean, it would have been fake, but for a moment….for one moment…

    3. What a fucking douche. Ignoring all the evidence, he’s blaming the Agents? They should sue his lying ass.

  6. I haven’t seen House of Cards. Maybe they think the Washington elite are ruthless and competent during internal interactions and deliberately buffoonish in their press conferences and interviews? Personally, I think they are naturally buffoonish at all times, but it is hard for us to verify what goes on behind closed doors and inside closed minds.

    1. In the show, pretty much all the other congressmen and senators are buffoonish with the exception of the “protagonist”, Kevin Spacey’s character, Frank Underwood. Many other reps are shown as easily manipulated pushovers. Underwood sometimes fails because his plans unravel for seemingly stochastic reasons, but rarely does he fail because he is rhetorically or strategically bested by another person.

      I watched the entire series over about two weeks. It is a compelling show, but only because I despise every one of the main characters and hope to see them ruined. There is no protagonist, I want them all to fail and be miserable. Robin Wright’s character in House of Cards might have ruined The Princess Bride for me, sadly.

      1. A protagonist isn’t necessarily a sympathetic or likeable character.

        1. Right, it stems from proto (first) and agonist (one who struggles).

  7. With almost everything having to do with politics, I am frequently forced to ask myself: “Are things this way because of colossal ignorance and incompetence?… or are people actually cognizent of what they are doing, and are simply amoral souless mendacious scum doing anything to obtain and retain some form of power?”

    i.e. “Ignorance or Willful Malice”?

    More and more often I conclude that most are a combination of Evil AND Incompetent. That things would in fact be *worse* if they could only get “more done”. I think reality supports this thesis.

  8. “It might be more worthwhile if we stopped wringing our hands and started ringing our congressmen.” – Unk

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  10. Most DC people I know spend the bulk of their time bitching about tourists.

    Usually when I talk to DC people I’m reminded of the scene in Goodfellas, where the Lorraine Bracco’s character is narrating about how all of the mafia wives think they’re glamorous but they really just look trashy and worn down.

    1. To be fair, the tourists are a major pain in the ass. But then so are DC people.

  11. What a great two weeks for liberty! First the sequester goes into effect and the sky does not fall, then Hugo Chavez dies! Viva la liberte!

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