If a full moon makes people crazy, what's their excuse the rest of the month?
This haunting question arose on October 18 as I sat on my roof staring at the Hunter's Moon, which was in penumbral eclipse. Two nights earlier, a stenographer in the U.S. House of Representatives was forcibly removed after she interrupted the vote on the government funding and debt ceiling deal with a rant about God not being mocked and the Founding Fathers being Freemasons.
You might think this is a hoax, but the meltdown really occurred. The stenographer, Dianne Reidy, later said the Holy Spirit had inspired her. The lunacy fit the occasion as 144 House Republicans and no Democrats voted against funding the government and honoring America's debts. I wondered briefly whether former Saturday Night Live actress Victoria Jackson had become a stenographer.
A former House stenographer tells me, "There wasn't a transcriber in my office who wasn't either on antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs." As an NBC Politics blog reader commented, "Michele Bachmann and her ilk have been uttering the same delusional drivel into microphones for years and yet they're still allowed to freely roam the halls of Congress."
The floorshow aside, recriminations flew about like autumn leaves after Congress pulled back from the brink. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "David Vitter is not playing with a full deck." Would-be Obama impeachers resumed hunting for a pretext. Republicans blamed their own for a self-inflicted wound, while Tea Party zealots made clear they would learn no lessons. The insurrectionists have not ended their siege of Washington.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) continued his mischief making by placing a hold on the nomination of Tom Wheeler to chair the Federal Communications Commission. His concern is that Wheeler may try to make election spending more transparent. And Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and John Cornyn (R-TX) attacked Jeh Johnson, nominee for Secretary of Homeland Security, over his past fundraising for the president -- though they never complained about the first DHS Secretary, Tom Ridge, having raised over $250,000 for George W. Bush's 2000 campaign.
The continued obstruction distracts from the fact that the budget battles are on the Republicans' own turf. If the latest budget negotiation super-committee proceeds on the basis that no new revenues can be considered while social programs are on the chopping block, the extortionists will have won before they've started. The irony is that most red states receive more from the federal treasury than they put in. Of the "giver" states, only Texas is red. Conservatives are leading the class warfare to which they so vehemently object. The question is whether the constituents they are harming will wake up and run them out of office instead of being forever frightened by the goblins of abortion, immigrants, Muslims, gays and people of color.
A petition has been circulating to arrest Cruz and other neo-Confederates for sedition. This could actually happen if they were anti-Federalist newspaper editors during the first Adams administration. As it is, the petition's main value is to supply ammo to the media for the false equivalence with which they blame both parties for the government shutdown.
Note to smirking conservatives: yes, there are left-wing wackos, but they lack influence. The Republican pretense that mainstream liberalism equals the far-left fringe should be a source of dark amusement as the Rovians spend the midterm primaries defending the GOP's own mainstream stalwarts against their party's much more potent fringe.
Meanwhile, Republicans are suddenly concerned about the people who are having trouble signing up for the health care insurance the GOP spent the past four years doing their best to prevent. As Rep. Joe Crowley (D-NY) says, "Republicans are looking for problems to exploit, we Democrats are looking for problems to fix." Martin Bashir on MSNBC asked Democratic strategist Bob Shrum on October 23 if the GOP's efforts to discourage young people from signing up for health insurance (in order to imbalance Obamacare toward the older and sicker) is their most pernicious tactic of all. Please, let's not hurt the tactics' feelings. All of the Republican tactics are equally pernicious to me, the little dears.
I once heard a man wonder aloud, "How often does Halloween fall on Friday the 13th? That would be really spooky!" Indeed. He might be the dyslexic genius behind Paul Ryan's budget numbers.
Anything can happen. Last Friday I watched a dragon eat the moon.