Time to consider the “unthinkable” in a different light

It has been five months now since you were sworn in and moved into your offices in Washington.

The town has not been as you thought it would be, has it?.

For you House members you also realize that only five months in and you are almost a quarter way through of your term, and it won’t be long before you must begin racing a second time. Fundraising is almost a full time job, making 1) the oath and 2) the job you now know that has to be done almost an unbearable weight.

For some of you this will be easy, for some of  you have been in public service all your professional lives. You have been grooming for this job since law school. To you, Congress is the end game, so naturally that leather chair in your office is beginning to feel very comfortable. One more swing around the district and it will be broken in. And you can take off the beanie. You’ll be a player.

But others of you, the citizen-legislators, the kind of legislator we’d like to see grow in numbers in Washington (and for whom we have a special place in our hearts here at UP) you’re looking at the coming year with more mixed emotions. To you that chair feels like a hard church pew during a stemwinder on tithing Sunday.

You feel an anxiety and dread of this coming election, in part because I’m sure none of you wanted to come to Washington to become full-time fundraisers.

But also because you could never could have believed that things are as SNAFU’d as badly as you found them in Washington.

Worse, most of you have never been spoken to, or about, by anyone; constituents, local newspapers, total strangers, via phone calls, letters, emails, in such vile language as you have suffered these past six months. Why, just a year ago, if a fellow had walked up to you and said those those things you’d have punched him in the nose. Today, you have to smile, remember to say something polite, then turn and walk the other way while trying to bite through a ten-penny nail.

And what did you do to deserve all this?

For one, you stuck a damned R at the end of your name. Really, that’s all.  D’s run their plantations so they don’t have to put up with that kind of back sass. There’s nary a discouraging word on the beaten-down plantation.

For another, you found out what you probably always sensed when you were still a mere citizen back in Keokuk, namely, there is always that loud, squeaky kook fringe out there who thinks they own a piece of you from the moment they punched your name on the ballot.

Your deepest urge is to  just chuck it all and go back to being a profitable private citizen…

…only you now realize that all that stands between total national ruin and  the private sector and the jobs it creates, and all the new money that creates…is you.

So, instead of packing it in, you’re overwhelmed with the sense of duty that you have to stay and fight this out to the end. You have seen many things that need fixing, and think your peculiar skills might provide some solutions that are unknown to those other Members whose resume mainly consists of having hung around the county courthouse all their career.

You haven’t just visited the sausage factory, you suddenly find yourself in management…and the factory stinks. And you know why…and you wear this weight like a millstone.

Worse, and this is why I separated the professional politicians from the citizen-politicians, you know that if something isn’t done now, by you and by as many new people like you, it will never get done. So, by now you know 1) who can be relied on to  analyze a situation without first considering their own self-interests, and 2) that there are precious few of them.

That said, my apologies to you few genuinely dedicated professional politicians as well, but as freshmen, history has proven time and again that you are much more apt to quickly meld into the woodwork of your office, and become a part of the seamless veneer of career mendacity that permeates those shallowed halls of Congress. Forgive me in advance if I have put you in bad company, but you must prove your way out. Sorry. But please prove me wrong, only many of you can’t. Just understand that a whole new system is in place to measure your work product. A much more tightly knit seine net has been installed in every red district, soon to be debuting in some blue districts as well. Integrity-in-smaller-government is the new star ascending, so jump on it. Or else.

For all of you, I want to encourage you to stay awhile at least, two-three terms, and to mentor the next and the next generation of new freshmen. I’d like to see at least forty more R’s in 2012. And a few more old R’s put out to pasture.

Now that that’s been said, For your consideration:

What I am about to say to you here is a thing that you should hold very close, and rarely speak about even to your closest friends, family, and associates. But you must consider it, make time to consider it, by yourself from time to time, just so you won’t be consumed by the appearance of business as usual Congress attempts to convey. Things are not normal there, but there is almost an unquenchable desire to make it appear that way. It’s in the water. So don’t drink it.

In your more private moments you must resist this, for the fate of the nation may well depend on how well just a few of you can continue your grasp onto reality.

I have written in the past about “thinking the unthinkable” and have often commented that Ronald Reagan, as he looked across the joint session of Congress in his first State of the Union speech in 1982, could never have believed that fully 25% of the men and women gathered there were foresworn to the overthrow of the American government and Constitution.

The greater consideration for you is this:  Reagan could never have allowed himself to believe this. Neither could Bush I, Bob Dole, or even George W Bush. Nor most members of Congress the past thirty years.

And therein lies not just a lesson, dear Members, but possibly the first lines of our epitaph.

Man it seems, has an embedded defense mechanism against even entertaining the unthinkable, and the “unthinkable” is anything that can cause his world to suddenly and catastrophically be changed. A typhoon, tornado or tsunami we can at least understand. But an epidemic? An invasion? A Hitler?

For things humans can do something about, consider this short essay from Chameleon Associates. Its essence is, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a damned duck, so treat it like a duck, dammit!”

I can’t say why people don’t heed this very simple law, but we know often they don’t. The sudden about-face especially s a difficult thing to do. Entire civilizations have fallen simply because, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they rolled the dice and stayed put, to be swallowed up by this horde or that tribulation. Rather than face the danger head on, everyone simply looked to each other, and saw that the fellow next to them also didn’t want to believe the duck was really a duck, and stayed. Some years ago a psychologists tested this ability to disconnect from reality in people by conducting tests in which he asked a roomful of people to do a simple multiplication problem. Only one was a test subject and he got it right every time. The others intentionally got it wrong…so often that the test subject finally relented and decided to give a wrong answer as well just so he could fit in with the group. He relinquished his own good sense.

America, however, of another time, was able to stop and turn on a dime. On December 8th, 1941. But that is rare, for nine million European Jews chose not to make that turn. They could not allow themselves to think the unthinkable even though Adolf Hitler said he was going to do what he did. They suspended critical thinking, for several reasons, I’m sure, but primary among them was having to wheel and turn and move in a direction less comfortable than the one they knew. They opted for normal.

Reckless Endangerment

Of the best-sellers on the NYT list there is an important book by Gretchen Morgenson and Joshua Rosner, Reckless Endangerment. Ms Morgenson is a Pulitzer-Prize winning Times financial columnist, but does the Times’ leftwing causes no favors by outlining a criminal plan running through the Clinton Administration, Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac, that brought the national economy to near collapse in 2008. She documents with proof, credible probative proof, the type prosecutors like to put before a jury, linking several members of Congress and the government of acts of criminal conspiracy, accessories before and after the fact, that brought the country to near collapse, and which continues today as a giant cover-up to protect the bad actors in the original legislation.

These facts are no longer in dispute. What is in dispute is whether anyone in “responsible positions” (this means members of Congress and excludes people like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck) will consider these to be crimes or merely well-intentioned plans gone bad. If we accept the latter then “normalcy” will continue apace…until we are all consumed with what we also know to be consequences of believing a duck isn’t really a duck.

America is now coming to the end of a criminal spree that has been going on for some years, and it has emanated from Congress for the most part.  You members will either be a part of the remedy, or you will provide the final nails for the coffin. Much of your ability to provide the fix (instead of the nails) depends to a great deal on your willingness to see these crimes for what they have been, a series of crimes. They walked like a crime, quacked like one, ergo…

Today the debt ceiling negotiations are tied directly to this series of crimes and you are being pushed to believe that these crimes (the sub-prime mortgage-banking crisis of 2008-2009) were at best well-intentioned legislation that just caught up in the law of unexpected consequences, and at worst, your (the GOP’s) fault.

Starting this weekend that will be the new story line. Either way, this is intended to keep you in the world of the “normal” I alluded to earlier. For your party will have to march before cameras and answer the question “Are you..” or “Why are you trying to derail a a bi-partisan deal?”

This is well-cast hook. Can you think of any responses that will enable you to spit that hook out they are trying to set?  (A little trout fishing lingo there.)

The Unshook Hand

We saw this trap earlier when certain interviewers would try to corner members by asking “Do you think Obama is a socialist?” Of course he is, and we all know that, but we also know you can’t say that in public (altough I can).  But you can say, “Well, I can’t know his heart, but a lot of his policies certainly are socialist, and it’s perfectly normal for people to assume, if it walks like a duck…etc.”

The same is true now. Of course you can’t point a finger at any member and say that he has committed a crime, but you can say that it’s clear crimes, not just innocent mistakes, were committed and that some members of Congress appear to have been in the thick of it.

Yep, that will set off a firestorm, as the recent Shumer comments proved about GOP wrecking of a budget deal that never could have taken place with tax hikes. It’s a shell game. It’s all theater, but the theater of the normal, to continue the mantra that everything that has brought us to this place is politics-as-usual, and not crime.

You need to get ahead of this, and you have only a few weeks to do it, but you can get ahead of it. And all you have to do is lead with your own sense of propriety and decency. This is why I targeted the citizen-legislators, for I know they have some.

I don’t know about you, but I have some hard and fast rules about certain kinds of people I run into along the way. You do too and being members of Congress shouldn’t change certain basic laws you live by. I’m old, and have been around, and just like the corporate world I have come across types in this political world I simply cannot abide.  Basically, these are people I won’t shake hands with, or even share a table with unless duty absolutely requires it. More importantly, by and large they know it, so it is me they avoid. I don’t have to shun them, for the last thing they want is for other people to see me, a nobody, refuse to extend to him, a somebody, the hand of collegiality. I usually say something to the effect that “Even my hypocrisy has boundaries.”  That’s a stinger in front of others.

They know who they are, the posing Christian hypocrite topping my list, and some known conservatives are among these. Men who lie the liars’ mouth. Also, the moral coward, the backstabber, the back-alley ambusher, they know who they are. But atheists, communists, even convicted felons don’t offend me very much. Some of my best talking comrades are among these.

But felons-in-being, i.e., people in the act, like so many in Congress, Nahh. I may have to appear with them in public, but they have to know I know, and I think that should be a slow, deliberate duty of yours, dear Members…to making that known. Understand me, that gives you power over them, even fear…although you should also know to watch your back.

If you are going to win this budget battle in the talking press, you are going to have to up the ante. And it will be far more beneficial to you to refuse Barney Frank your hand before he refuses you his. In the gay world, that is called “being on top.”

You don’t have to accuse anyone of anything. But you do have to call out the crimes. And say people will go to jail. Leave it to Barney to take care of the rest, for he will up the ante. For you see, they are playing all their cards. If you are one step in front of them, you can beat them.

Maybe even toss a few in jail.

Back to square one. You cannot allow yourselves to become a part of the congressional woodwork. You were sent there to replace it. And one of the first steps you must take is redefine what normal is. You have among you people who have done equal to what the Rosenbergs did. Yes, that word. And there are among you men and women who would be doing from 25-to-life if they were in the private sector doing what they did in the financial melt-down. Not many, but the accessories-after-the-fact need to know they too are culpable. It starts with you.

So, take this information to your closet, then chew on it. You will know what to do.