National Commentary

Crazy Enough to Actually Default


Standing up to a bully isn’t easy, and it seldom succeeds if left to the intervention of a single person.

It requires an organizing process, a campaign as it were, to mount a sufficient majority so that the bully can be boxed in, stripped of his or her power, and then invited by superior, sustainable force to become a normal human being.

The first big step toward getting that job done is the demonstration to a wider group that bully is, indeed, just that. He most often is carefully selective, not bellowing from some high point, but picking off victims in more isolated settings so as to avoid detection and the deserved rebuke that his cowardly methods deserve. The risk that bullies take, after all, is wide exposure, because no one likes a bully.

So, in Washington, D.C., in the events leading up to the debt ceiling votes this week, the Tea Party may have won, tactically. It may have extorted the candy out of its intimidated victims according to plan, but it did so at a sore, potentially fatal price.

President Obama and the Democratic leadership held out against the Tea Party pressure long enough to show that, yes, these nuts really were serious about throwing the national economy over the cliff.

Indeed, they meant it! They actually would have pulled the trigger, lit the fuse, pushed the button, dropped the bomb, crashed the plane. Oh, my lord, they actually are maniacal political terrorists.

So what have we learned? Is it that they really don’t care a hoot about their own constituents and average Americans? Is it that they are crazed and obedient slaves serving the masters of a national, menacing ruling class? Is it that they are willing to double unemployment, let bridges fall down, close schools and starve sick grandmothers without blinking? Yes, yes, yes and more yeses to all such questions.

Many working families thought these people were their friends. Many let them stroke a mildly persisting, innate racism to present a stand-up opposition to President Obama, and they liked that. They reminded them of redneck roots, of Aunt Bessie’s fritters and pie.

Guns, big trucks, ferocious dogs, these people were supposedly ordinary folk and they were needed, many thought, as salve against the burning gall of an African-American presuming the right to be president, of upscale, lisping urbanites running things who pay too much attention to their science and European values.

Besides, Protestant fundamentalist preacher men all across the heartland bellowed about Sodom and sinful mental tendencies that go soft on immigration.

Wall Street and related puppeteers, like the bond market case who proudly takes credit for launching the Tea Party, found it easy to blow illusory smoke-screens over their right-flank “astro-turf” (as in, phony grassroots) movement in the corridors of the supine, ever-distracted major news media.

So, Tea Party candidates last November got themselves elected in droves, believing the salvation of America lay in their mandate to follow without question the inspired teachings of their patron, Saint Dick Armey.

And like dazed cultists, they proved conclusively this week they really were ready to drink the spiked Kool-Aid on cue, consequences be damned. They were marching on us, like groaning, lusty zombies, as if they already had.

Thus, the first step to dispersing this hoard is accomplished. The public, because of this past week and the pain the agreed-to budget cuts will inflict on jobs and the economy almost immediately, has been duly alerted: There is a batch of lunatics on Capital Hill who will stop at nothing, nothing, to follow their masters’ orders.

President Obama currently lacks the popular support that FDR enjoyed during the Great Depression of the 1930s because he hasn’t convinced the average American that he stands firmly on their side, that he is their champion.

In the coming months, this will be his challenge. The immediate crisis has been averted and the maniacal bullies exposed for what they really are.
Now it’s the president’s turn to mount the steed, belt it out on the bugle, thrust the sword skyward and cry, “Charge!” He’s still the best hope of the vast American majority, and we eagerly await his calling us forth.

Nicholas Benton may be emailed at