Waiting and watching the pulling and tugging among the president, the Speaker and their respective parties conjures images of Japanese giants seeking advantage in their sumo rings. A pull here, a tug there and one or the other tumbles for a moment, but with a sudden motion, amazing for beasts their size, they are back on their feet yanking again at their adversary.
Apparently Japanese aficionados of sumo understand a lot of the loaded moves and even know how to tell who is winning or losing. It is too bad that there is no one around who has the code to interpret the current sumo game being played out for us in Washington, D.C. in front of the world.
Yes, we now all seem to know that there is a real deadline with potentially serious consequences. However, as we approach that so-called 'cliff', we now hear some murmurs about "well maybe we have to go off the cliff -- a little bit? -- to test the waters."
What is the matter with us? Indeed the issues are many and complicated, though they do boil down to basically three elements: tax rates, debt ceilings and budget cuts. They have been raked over several times by highly trusted and competent experts; the broad outlines of formulas for compromise and how to proceed have been out there for a long time.
So what is the sumo match all about? It can only be about a few things. Which side is 'heavier'? Which side is quicker? Which side is smarter? And, which side is tougher and has the political staying power?
HEAVIER: That one should be easy. The president has just won a tough election by a healthy margin and has a clear mandate from the people to deal with taxes his way. To deny that reality requires a magician.
QUICKER: The Speaker is quicker with quips and flips; but the president has been quick with sticking to his long-held positions. Call speed a draw if you like.
SMARTER: The Speaker is not a dumb man. At least he seems smart enough to maneuver in any way to hold his position until the midterm elections, when he is now most likely to be toast. The president is off-the-charts smart and he is no longer worried about job security. I put my money on the president for political smarts and having the substance right.
STAYING POWER: This element is more based on being right and having history on your side. It looks increasingly clear that the Speaker's position is weakening because his far right is already fading as a result of the recent election. It also looks clearer by the day that intelligent centrist Republicans are swinging in behind the kind of compromises that have been out there for months.
No one could possibly want to be blamed for pushing the nation off a cliff into another recession/depression. So why don't we all rise to our feet, give a smashing round of applause to our friendly sumo contestants and tell them, "game over, good show; now let's get back to real life and business."