Sunday, December 2, 2012

Good-Cop-Bad-Cop Governance?

I have little tolerance for getting my politics through Sunday morning television. Calvin Trillin once called both the hosts and the participants "Sabbath-Day gasbags;" and things have not changed since I heard him make that declaration. As a result, rather like the fact the BBC News can provide me with a reasonably good summary of all the shouting without my having to sit through any of it.

Today's shouting, of course, was all about the "fiscal cliff" (which may yet turn out to be yet another example of how economic theory is based on a foundation of "fictions of convenience"). The take-away from the BBC "post-game recap" is basically that intransigence is currently trumping deliberation, leading me to wonder whether the entire month is going to be like this. It is the sort of shouting I associate with cop shows on television, particularly those good-cop-bad-cop gambits that take place when interviewing a suspect. Certainly, if you want to call up Central Casting for a "bad cop," you would be in good hands if they send you Timothy Geithner. There are some accounts that he spends much of his time in White House meetings playing the bad cop, so you may as well sic him on the Republicans if he plays the role so well. Then we have Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who likes to play at being a good cop but still has to worry about his Majority Whip Eric Cantor, who may well be the baddest cop in Washington (and that includes the members of the city's police force) these days, dogging his heels.

Thus, what we really learn from the BBC report is that, for now at least, bad cops rule. Of course this may all amount to getting all of the invective out of the system relatively early in the game, allowing the good cops to take over as the deadline gets closer. I'm just beginning to wonder whether there are any good cops left in the game, because the prevailing practice of politics has reduced them to irrelevance.

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