Thank you, John Boozman. He's the Republican senator from Arkansas who now has "explained" why the president and speaker of the House need to keep their conversations secret -- excuse me, Confidential, to use the current term of art.
Sen. Boozman says the two negotiators need to conduct the public's business in private to avoid any pressure from outside lobbying groups. The senator felt no need to mention that the biggest such group is the American people, who have been known to have a multitude of ideas of their own, and no hesitation about expressing them, aka lobbying for them.
Woodrow Wilson's day, and even he pretty much ignored it in practice as secret treaties, often promising different countries different things, were negotiated out of public earshot. That's the way these delicate matters should be handled if you believe John Boozman. It's a lot more efficient than letting the mere public in on what's going on. Which can be awfully messy. Just as democracy is.
It's much better to let Barack Obamas and John Boehners hash these things out without the presence of We the People, who can be quite a pain. Our function is just to pay the taxes the big boys decide on.
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The subject of our leaders' unending talk, and so far only talk: how to avoid going over what has come to be called, repeatedly and tiresomely, the Fiscal Cliff. Not since rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, or maybe since The Tip of the Iceberg that sank her, has a cliche grown so old so fast. The one thing needed more just now than some certainty about the federal government's tax laws is a new metaphor for the old impasse in Washington. Please don't suggest Trainwreck. That figure of speech was worn out by Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich back in the Nineties when they were racing their steam locomotives right at each other -- and the country's hopes of achieving a measure of budgetary stability. Which it did after an awful lot of huffing-and-puffing that folks also confused with The End of the World.
You'd have thought the little contretemps between Newt and Bill, who have a lot more in common than either might like to admit, had been the kind of apocalyptic event forecast in the Mayan calendar, which may not be a calendar at all but a history, and certainly not a forecast. Even the brilliant Newton, whose light still shines, got lost once he left the calculus behind and dove into theology, proving once again that scientists have no more business fooling with religion than theologians do talking science.
This latest deal up in Washington is still in the huffing-and-puffing stage even if no one, perhaps not even the negotiators, can be sure just who's huffing and who's puffing.
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How will this cliffhanger end? Will it be a continuing serial, like "The Perils of Pauline"? Will it turn out to be a wild Thelma-and-Louise ride to oblivion, or just a big build-up to that ever-elusive Grand Bargain that isn't grand at all but just Kicks the Can Down the Road? A Niagara or just a leaky faucet?
The punditry can scarcely discuss these goings-on, or even what's not going on, without falling into cliches. The results of all these meeting to date: Not many. But the associated fanfare is as gaudy as any Copland or Ravel could compose. And even theirs got boring after a while.
As for the Surprise Ending, it may be no surprise at all. Just another muddle-through. The best prediction yet of what all these summits between president and speaker will produce comes from the Sunlight Foundation. That outfit is dedicated to finding light, any at all, in cloud-covered Washington. Here is its assessment of how this over-hyped little drama -- call it the Boehner-Obama Show -- is going to turn out:
"We aren't going to learn what we need to understand -- the issues and their importance -- but instead we're going to be given self-congratulatory vignettes and staged disclosure."
Then it'll be time to send in the clowns for the not-so-grand finale. Till then, the show must go on. To no clear end.
My forecast: Cloudy. With no chance of rain.
(Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.)