ABC’s Diane Sawyer will soon air her interview with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the first since the Arizona Congresswoman was shot in the head during Jarod Loughner’s Tuscon rampage in January. Giffords looks alert and upbeat, if understandably frail, and answers Sawyer’s questions with short, often single word responses. She has clearly made remarkable progress in her rehabilitation. She also obviously has a long way to go, and her prospects of working at a high level again, much less working on the nation’s problems, are speculative at best. Why then is she still filling a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives?
She is doing so because, of course, she is courageous. Because her recovery is inspiring, and it would be heartless and cruel to take her job away because of a madman’s bullet. She is doing so because it would be unfair and mean to rush heroic Gaby, and because Americans care. None of which has any relevance to the tiny, apparently trivial issue of governing America.
In the midst of a growing number of crises, with the nation begging for leadership, realism and competence and seeing none; with citizens squatting in Obamavilles all over the country, breeding disease and violence with their discontent; with the nation’s credit rating about to take another hit, the pathetic debt reduction “super committee” foundering, and its failure poised to gut the nation’s military defense; and with one of America’s most outspoken enemies about to acquire nuclear weapons, the Democratic Party is treating the public to a reality show. This is unconscionable, and the fact that the media applauds, the Republicans nod and the public smiles is terrifying. At what point, exactly, do we start taking our problems seriously? I was recently discussing the impending economic collapse of Italy with a friend, wondering how any government could allow itself to get to that desperate state. What was I talking about?
This is how. By not being serious. By accepting lazy and incompetent leadership. By not paying attention.
Here is part of a newspaper account of one of Giffords’ friends, describing the Congresswoman’s current state of recovery:
“They were eating together recently, he says, and Gabby was trying to explain what she wanted on her sandwich. “She’d say, ‘Pickle, pickle,’ and I’d say, ‘Oh, you want pickles?’ And she’d say, ‘No, no,’ ” he says. She tried again: “Onion, onion.” “You want onions?” Erickson asked. No, that wasn’t it either. “Do you want cheese?” he guessed. “Yes, cheese,” she said, happy. They’d found the word together, sorting through “the crazy mechanisms of the brain,” Erickson says.
“Gabby gets close to the word she wants, saying things associated with the word she is looking for: sandwich toppings, for example. ‘She couldn’t do that two months ago,’ he says. ‘She can’t always pick the right words, or she might put them in the reverse order,’ he says. But even then, she knows. ‘She’ll say, ‘Wrong word,’ ” he says.
Some people have said to Erickson, ‘ ‘Oh, she is like a child,’ but no, that’s not it,’ he says. ‘She’s thinking fully. She has a lot of content between her thoughts, whereas a child doesn’t. She has an instant vocabulary,’ Erickson says. ‘She just can’t locate all the words in her mind.'”
Inspiring. Why is this woman still in Congress? Don’t tell me that “she’s only one Representative and we have plenty of others.” The Congress is dysfunctional. One real leader, one individual with bold ideas and the skills to express them, one non-hack who can appeal to the public rather than just Republicans or Democrats to get serious and accept responsibility, can make all the difference. How dare Arizona, the Democrats and the nation pick a time like this to waste even one seat on sentiment?
The United States shouldn’t panic over its many problems, but it has to take them seriously, and it is not. Part of that lack of seriousness is seen in the playing of politics while urgent solutions are needed instead. The President’s jobs bill wasn’t serious; it was a calculated campaign ploy. The super sommittee wasn’t a serious measure: it was constructed to diffuse accountability for failure. The proposals coming out of the Republican presidential challengers aren’t serious: they are arguing over whether to cut five or three cabinet departments, as if anyone sane (other than Ron Paul, arguably) believes this is possible. The GOP electorate isn’t serious either. Shaken by doubts over Herman Cain’s sexual harassment allegations and his handling of them, it is turning to…Newt Gingrich!!!— whose own romantic record marks him as a despicable cad. And, of course, President Obama isn’t serious either. He’s campaigning. Campaigning is never serious, as the list of non-serious promises he made the last time around proves. If he was serious, he would be leading the Super Committee, not waiting for it. If he were serious, Eric Holder would be out of a job.
At least Gaby Giffords has an excuse: she was shot in the head. The rest of them don’t. We don’t. But she is an unfortunate symbol of the rapidly approaching tragedy of America’s decline and fall. When we face the fate of Italy and Greece, let it be remembered that when we needed to engage our best and brightest and had time to be responsible for future generations, we decided to use the U.S. Government as the set for a made-for-TV movie because it was “inspiring.”
I will be inspired by competent national leadership.
But I don’t see that on the schedule.