12/08/2008 05:45 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We Have Met the Enemy and It Is Not Us

According to economic experts, the current decline and fall of American civilization is going to "get worse before it gets better." In other words, after our empire ends we may have to wait a while before it comes back. This may not happen overnight, as there are other empires in line ahead of us, including the Roman, the British, and the Galactic.

Our troubles are nothing new. The Greek Empire, facing a similar crisis, turned its back on its ailing chariot industry and the Mongols once laid off thousands of hordes right before the busy invasion season.

Our innovation, our contribution, our upgrade from a mere recession to the Academy Award®-sounding Worst Economic Disaster Since the Great Depression, is our unerring ability to blame ourselves and admit nothing simultaneously.

In the past, the responsible thing was to take responsibility. What the Watergate burglars, the iceberg that hit the Titanic and the makers of According to Jim all had in common is that they stood by their disasters.

About the only thing the White House, Congress, Wall Street and Main Street will cop to regarding this financial mess is that somebody did it. Just not us. We have become an entire nation of Plaxico Burress, shooting ourselves in the leg and then pleading not guilty. We are less in need of an economic stimulus package than a minimum sentence of suspension 'til the end of the season and then at least three years to sit quietly and think about what we've done.

As they say in Economics Anonymous, the first step toward financial recovery is admitting you have a problem.

People say don't expect too much from Barack Obama. He can't work miracles right away, and he's been busy filling out his cabinet and auditioning dogs. Still, is it too much to ask that the man who plans to lead America out of its bad credit addiction at least take responsibility for his own nicotine habit?

When asked on Meet the Press if he had given up smoking, he said, "I have done a terrific job, under the circumstances, of making myself much healthier. And I think that you will not see any violations of these [smoking] rules in the White House."

Any more exchanges like that and twenty years from now we'll be watching a movie called Frost/Obama, with a new Nixonian catchphrase: "When the president does it, it's NOT hazardous to your health."

We have faced great crises before, although not with such great television graphics. In the pre-TV age, Abraham Lincoln led the entire Civil War using only one typeface, Old Antiqua (although at the time it was called just Antiqua). He inspired the nation's printers when he said, "A font divided against itself cannot print."

Obama has been reading Lincoln, which makes sense, since Lincoln also presided over a country that had no auto industry. Let us hope that in the days ahead, as we decide which hundred-year-old industries to let go, that we meet our defeats with a firm reluctance to admit we had anything to do with them.

We must heed the words of the wise American philosopher Bart Simpson, who spoke for all of us when he said, "I didn't do it, you didn't see me do it, you can't prove anything."