It's Thursday in Washington and only now is the city beginning to substantially emerge from the icy womb of the 2010 Snowmageddon. It's time to recap how this snowfall left your elite media figures a little bit afflicted with cabin fever.
We'll begin with Chris Matthews, who decided to take to his Hardball perch to decry the way Washington, DC, which has not seen a significant snowfall in years, totally failed to cope with the record-breaking winter that, naturally, everyone should have long been expecting!
MATTHEWS: Washington is the city that as we all know commands the power of the world's greatest country and the resources of the planet. But it's a city that can't plow its streets. They can't work because they can't GET TO WORK. Talk about a metaphor! Why can't a government town do a government job? We people don't have snowplows, the government does! And yet, Monday morning, after last week's snowfall, the snow was still in the streets, right on North Capitol Street, and the snow was even deeper out at Union Station here in Washington. It looked like Siberia, without the Siberian discipline. John Kennedy once said that Washington had the charm of the North and the efficiency of the South, today we have the weather of Buffalo and the snowplowing capability of Miami.
Where to begin? First, the snow that was on the streets on Monday did not fall "last week." It fell on the weekend that immediately preceded that Monday. Washington, DC has the snowplowing capability of Washington, DC. And lest you believe that Matthews has done a searching inventory of the state of Washington's streets, let me direct your attention to the fact that the two geographic locations he cited: North Capitol Street and Union Station, are both a few blocks from NBC's news studio on... wait for it... North Capitol Street. Matthews basically looked out of a window, and decided to start forming opinions on urban snow removal.
By the way, I do not think that Chris Matthews understands how local government works -- and that it is a separate thing from the federal government. But at this point, I'm going to pass the mic to my colleague, Ryan Grim, who wants to get his rant on:
"Why can't a government town do a government job?" Matthews asked.
What balls. For those of you outside the District who are unfamiliar with the colonial situation that exists today, allow me to answer Matthews's query: BECAUSE THE RICH PEOPLE LIVE IN MARYLAND AND VIRGINIA AND DON'T PAY TAXES TO THE CITY.
That's by design. These wealthy and connected commuters use their power in Congress to prevent the city from taxing commuters, like all other self-respecting cities do.
"Let's look at this as a giant metaphor right now," Matthews said.
Yes. Please. Let us.
So Matthews lives in Montgomery County, where he benefits from lower taxes but also gets the benefit of working in Washington, DC, the nation's capital -- where he needs to be to cover politics -- without having to pay any taxes to the city itself for the privilege.
Commuters like him then make sure, through the colonial masters in Congress, that DC is forbidden from implementing a commuter tax. That deprives the city of hundreds of millions of dollars a year and contributes to the city's structural deficit. Other contributors: government buildings, nonprofits, international organizations and embassies don't pay property taxes. But those embassies sure do throw great parties, right, Chris? DC residents are just oh-so-happy to subsidize them.
And you know what? We're pretty bitter about the feudal arrangement, but we don't complain too much, because we choose to live here while you choose not to.
But one thing we can't take is hearing the very people whose tax-dodging lifestyle creates this disparity bitch about how the city doesn't have more resources when an emergency hits.
"For some reason, they did a good job on our street," Matthews said.
Gee. Isn't that nice. However could they afford such nice snowplows?
Ryan Grim, ladies and gentlemen. But look, it's not all bad! I read today that Sally Quinn, the overheated society columnist from the Washington Post had herself some sort of snowbound epiphany. THIS IS IMPORTANT, THE MOST IMPORTANT!
Several people had called her to find out where Washington socialites were gathering for snow parties. Her response: "I had to confess I had no idea. We certainly hadn't been invited to any and weren't giving any, either."
But she did have a house full of people. She was hosting a family of four, plus two of her husband's granddaughters and her nearby family. And the crowd was growing: "Several friends on the block have come over for dinner since the snow began. We've had huge pots of stew, spaghetti and soups. We've had big fires and lots of candles. We've had many bottles of wine."
Quinn says she doesn't know -- or care -- what the Washingtonian socialites are doing. "I found myself wishing Washington could always be like this," she writes. "Just put things on hold and be around people you love instead of worrying about who's getting invited where and whether this person and that are speaking to or vilifying each other."
Ultimately, she writes: "All I know is that one thing has changed: my definition of the word party."
Such a nice change! Especially considering the fact that Quinn loves nothing more than to dish about invitations and vilifying people. Here she is, pointlessly insulting the Clintons. Here's Quinn fretting about the people President Obama should invite to parties, amid concerns that he didn't show up to Washington, DC, with the right "references." And here's Chris Lehmann, documenting how Quinn straight up succumbed to the vapors at the news of the third White House party crasher:
Never mind that this fellow, an innocuous-seeming party planner, had wormed his way into Singh's own delegation. Never mind, in addition that, as La Quinn herself is forced to concede that it was actually "a State Department protocol error that is to blame for the presence of a third uninvited guest." No, the optics of the thing are such that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and White House Social Secretary Desiree Rogers must step down. Somehow, in the woolly free-associative world of Quinn reasoning, this episode seals the case that, when scandal turns up the doorstep, "members of this administration would rather lay low and let Barack Obama be the target." Why, there was the protracted whispering campaign that led to White House counsel Greg Craig being dismissed over his seemingly dilatory handling of the presidential pledge to shut down the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within a year. There is the ongoing mole-agency finger-pointing over culpability for the suicide bombing at a CIA facility in Afghanistan and the foiled pants-bombing attack at the Detroit airport. Here in consensual reality, of course, these disputes mark the usual scrum of federal officialdom seeking cover in the face of embarrassment. But in QuinnWorld, this is fodder for a histrionic aria of alarm, delivered in a rising litany of asinine rhetorical questions: "Who was responsible? The CIA? The director of national intelligence The counterterrorism people? The Department of Homeland Security? All of the above?"
Speaking of the vapors, after everything has thawed, I might need to stage an encounter session with my friend and former DCist colleague Martin Austermuhle and the Post's Kathleen Parker, after her recent column... on the gender socialization of snow shoveling, left him seeing red. Martin captures Parker's weird thesis, thusly:
Parker asserts that shoveling is something men just need to do, like it's hard-wired into our genetic code. "What do men want?" she asks. "Shovels. Men want shovels, the bigger the better," she responds.
"Women can't be blamed for wanting to be independent and self-sufficient, but smart ones have done so without diminishing the males whose shoulders they might prefer on imperfect days. Add to the cultural shifts our recent economic woes, which have left more men than women without jobs, and men are all the more riveted by opportunities to be useful," she observes.
According to her profound analysis on the matter, the minute we simple-minded men see a flake of snow, we go running to the nearest shovel. "Man is never happier than when he is called to action, in other words. That is to say, when he is needed," she posits. Of course, she does add that women will shovel, but she only admits as much to avoid "sexist stereotyping."
Martin likens this to the infamous 2008 Charlotte Allen piece on how women were stupid and bad and how they should feel bad, but I don't think he recalls correctly how uniquely awful that piece was. It seems to me that Parker -- a conservative pundit type whom I usually find sensible and amiable -- just basically demonstrated how being trapped in the snow leaves us with little else to talk about. For what it's worth, my wife and I shovel snow depending on who has the most free time available to do it. It's not really a skill either of us have developed -- let alone allow to define our gender roles -- because, as I said before, it does not snow all that much, in the DC Metropolitan area!
Frankly, that thing Fox News did, in a momentary fit of snark that was under-informed on the body of scientific knowledge that we learn as seventh-graders, was actually one of the more tame responses. Speaking of which, I'd be remiss if I didn't admit that all this snow and cabin fever left me a little addled, as well.