First some good news for conservatives and I’m sure, at this particular moment in time, they can use it. Bill O’Reilly’s "Killing Jesus," is number one on non-fiction bestseller lists across the country. The Fox commentator has found what is, no doubt, a lucrative sideline by attaching his name and smiling likeness to a series of books that exploit notorious murders.
Mr. O’Reilly’s team of dogged researchers is now at work delving into the Disney archives to uncover material for his next expose, "Killing Bambi’s Mother." Speaking on condition of anonymity because the book is still in its formative stages, one researcher told a reporter, "This has been a traumatic moment in the lives of many generations of American children and Mr. O’Reilly is determined to get to the bottom of it." He would not dismiss the possibility that Flower and Thumper may have been involved.
All the other news on the conservative front has been pretty grim. While people flocked to movie theaters to see "Gravity," right wing extremists in Washington played out the last act of their own version of being lost in space. During the voting in the House to end the government shutdown, a stenographer suddenly began to rant about God. You could hardly blame a security guard for asking "Which one?" when he was asked to remove the crazy person from the chamber.
The basically pointless, exorbitantly costly, and universally embarrassing shutdown of the United States government hatched by an extremist faction of the Republican Party is finally over, at least until the next opportunity for extortion comes along. We will see, in the next few days, a flurry of GOP lawmakers attempting to distance themselves from the debris of this fiasco, which not only completely failed to reap any discernable benefits, it ended up shining the most favorable light President Obama has basked in since he entered the White House.
The collapse of the disgraceful shutdown ploy reminded me of a potent scene in Norman Jewison’s 1967 film, "In the Heat of the Night." During the course of his investigation into a murder in a southern town at the behest of the local sheriff, big city detective Sidney Poitier interrogates a rich white man, who has obviously secured a place in the community that he feels should command deference from anyone in his presence, especially a black guy in a nice suit.
At one point, he slaps Poitier across the face for daring to ask a question that intrudes upon the sanctity of his domain. Poitier hauls off and slaps him back. The look on that man’s face, I imagine, was not so different from the one adorning a number of white visages when the walls of the status quo were breached on Oct. 16. Nowhere was the almighty hypocrisy of the extortion ploy more blatantly on display than at the World War II Memorial in Washington. The same players who were so invaluable in shutting down government services and tossing 800,000 federal employees out of work were mingling with veterans and commiserating about what a national disgrace it was to deny the public entrance to such a hallowed place. We were favored with photographs of Sarah Palin and Ted Cruz, hands placed reverently over their crooked little hearts, as they gaze at the flag and imagine a land where everyone has the good sense to know his place, so people like Jamie Dimon and the Koch brothers can get on with the really important work to be done.
Of course, the clown in the center ring of this circus from hell was John Boehner. As Speaker of the House, Mr. Boehner could have scheduled a straight vote on an appropriately called "clean bill" before America became the laughing stock of the entire world. But Boehner, like a lot of other moderate GOP representatives in Congress, was terrified of retribution from the Tea Party if he dared to place the good of the nation ahead of his own diminished employment opportunities. The country needed statesmen and the best Washington could muster was just dime-a-dozen politicians.
As Frank Rich so rightfully pointed out, the 80 members of the House who actively promote the Tea Party’s loathing, not just for big government, but for any government, needed a lot of support from the more moderate members of the party to succeed. By and large, they got it, from Mr. Boehner on down. If the extortion tactic was, in the final analysis, an unqualified disaster, it wasn’t because of any widespread dissention from Republicans who strenuously objected to blackmail as a party policy. The only thing they underestimated was President Obama’s resolve, a commodity that, in the past, has been in very short supply.
Mr. Boehner, thankfully dry-eyed and gracious in defeat, said something about having fought "the good fight" and lost. The good fight? It isn’t hard to imagine Dick Cheney saying the same thing when public outrage forced the Bush administration to stop torturing prisoners of war.
The Affordable Care Act is being called President Obama’s signature achievement, but I think that what he accomplished by not bowing to gangster tactics has the potential to be of equal significance. It reaffirms that the will of the majority of the people in the United States is going to prevail over attempts to undermine it, no matter how high-pitched the volume or well funded the effort.
Before the members of Congress who favored keeping the government shut down voted, they all sang "Amazing Grace." It was appropriate. It is His grace indeed that saves this nation from their lunacy.
Alden Graves is a Banner columnist.