10/09/2013 03:56 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Buffoonery on the Brink

The brinkmanship in Washington is getting a little heady, so let's summarize: The thug from Texas by way of Princeton and Harvard says to The Worst President Since George W. Bush, "Kill your greatest domestic achievement or the hostage gets it!" The Worst President Since Edith Galt Wilson refuses to budge, so the thug whacks the poor bastard, which is to say the world economy, and says to The Worst President in the History of the Alpha Quadrant, "I can't believe you did that!"

With luck my musings will be overtaken by events, and what the mainstream media calls the "budget impasse" will be resolved before you see this. Nah. Speaking of the media, what an inspiration they are in their studied neutrality, pretending that we couldn't possibly spot the arsonists in this situation. As a medieval priest said to the commander of the papal army as it approached a rebellious village, "Kill them all and let God sort them out." If that sounds harsh, please remember that it is not the media's job to sort fact from fabrication, but only to give airtime to the most telegenic demagogues and wait for the fun and gore to ensue.

With news being shaped to fit a desired narrative, why not go whole hog and let political whimsy repeal the Scientific Revolution? Our science policy could be guided by amateur scientists like Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who said in 2009 that harnessing wind power "slows the winds down, which causes the temperature to go up." This must be music to the ears of America's competitors in China, India and Brazil.

Such ignorance requires concerted effort. The Tea Partiers have their own science, history, constitution and math. These wizards can change reality by incantation. Thus an even-tempered president accused by his own side of compromising too much becomes, by repetition, a tyrant who throws a tantrum when he doesn't get his way. And the views of one-tenth of the members of one-half of one of three branches of government are entitled to prevail over everyone else. Pay no attention to the fact that the resulting minoritarian government serves the interests of plutocrats who, The New York Times reports, bankrolled and planned this crisis.

House Speaker Boehner, hemmed in by members of his own caucus, tries a diversionary tactic by yelling "This isn't some damn game!" at the Democrats. Well of course it's a game, one with high stakes. As Tim Phillips of the conservative Americans for Prosperity says, "It is David versus Goliath." Except David is David Koch. If this health insurance law hatched by the Heritage Foundation and pioneered by Mitt Romney is allowed to stand, it will, the rightists cry, be Götterdämmerung, the Twilight of the Wall Street Gods. They will be like Kenneth Lay's wife, forced to decide whether to sell the Renoir or the Monet to fund the ad campaign calling Barack Obama The Worst President Since James Buchanan. (Actually that "worst" came from John Bolton, who really knows how to stab a guy in the heart.)

Speaking of President Buchanan, he was followed by a man named Lincoln, who wrote in January 1861, "We have just carried an election on principles fairly stated to the people. Now we are told in advance, the government shall be broken up, unless we surrender to those we have beaten, before we take the offices. In this they are either attempting to play upon us, or they are in dead earnest. Either way, if we surrender, it is the end of us, and of the government. They will repeat the experiment upon us ad libitum."

Mr. Lincoln, as you may be aware, did not surrender. Neither must his latest successor. Godspeed, Mr. President.

This piece appeared in Bay Windows and Metro Weekly.