The White House: Fact or Fiction

July 28, 2011

In the liquidation bin, I found the first season of The West Wing on DVD: $15 for six discs of the Aaron Sorkin-penned drama about a fictional President and his administration. The show’s behind-the-scenes look at the inner machinations of the White House sparkles with clever dialogue and walking-down-the-hallways tracking shots.  Great show.
And of course it’s all a lie, a fiction created for our entertainment. But it’s better than watching just about whatever else passes for television these days.
By contrast, our purported reality is dominated by politicians and Washington scoundrels embroiled in an arbitrary debate with a made-up deadline, all while the news media is busy hacking our cell phones.  You’re not a somebody until News Corp.’s got your VM password. And sadly, this game has undeniable real-world consequences.
Raise the debt ceiling, they say.  Stop the spending, they say.  I could wade into the details of the debate, but do we really care?  Until a couple of weeks ago, most major news outlets didn’t care. Reflecting back our interests to us, the news relentlessly cast its spotlight on a fantastic murder case involving a small child and her mother, the suspect.  Life imitates art, someone once said, so I can only assume this story began life as an episode of Law and Order: SVU. That perhaps explains why people followed the gory details so closely, and then were so distraught at the lack of narrative closure. Not good as a story, not good as reality.  What’s the point of that?
Meanwhile, the impending economic apocalypse loomed, noticed only by those who made the effort to pay attention.  Now the story is has risen like curd to the surface.  We’re paying attention, at least for now.  Forgive me if it all seems like another fiction.  That’s scary, because not raising the debt ceiling will most likely leave us screwed.
But at the same time, our real problems remain unaddressed.  Nine-point-something-percent unemployment is what we’re told.  Count the underemployed—I’m talking about the guys with BAs who are working 20 hours a week at Target cuz it’s all they can get right now—and the number jumps to 16.  What if I’m employed, but my wife has been laid off?  Her unemployment affects our whole family, doesn’t it?  How many families have been affected?  Where’s that number on the news?
Honestly, raising the debt ceiling isn’t hard.  We’ve done it under every president since Reagan.  If the price of raising the ceiling is a plan to reduce the deficit, let’s do that.  Let’s see, cut spending and raise revenues.  That should do it.  We can start by screwing “old and poor people.”  We’ll call it a reduction of entitlement spending.  Well done, old chaps.
Pretty soon this debt-ceiling story will be over, hopefully with disaster averted.  Then we’ll go back to watching our televised entertainments and forget about reality, or that small refraction of reality we possibly see.  Forgive me if I get a head start: I just turned off the news and put on another episode of The West Wing.  Bartlett in ’12 for me!

3 Responses to “The White House: Fact or Fiction”

  1. WreckedUm says:

    I've been watching the debt ceiling crisis closely myself. If this "default" does happen, then the first thing to go will be the federal unemployment extension (which I should qualify for just as the deadline happens) along with Social Security. I'm not blaming anyone at this point if that happens. I can't expect free money to hold me over forever, and I didn't. But I really do hate, just as you said, something that has been done during every presidency for decades is suddenly a political circus with prime-time attention and partisan rhetoric bouncing off the walls. These politicians aren't public servants, they're attention whores and camera clowns. They are performers. It's revolting. I may fundamentally disagree with Reagan, but at least he had a background as an actor.
    I like the recent story about averting it all by invoking the 14th amendment and making it an executive decision, even if the President doesn't have the balls to do it. THAT will piss the Right off.

    • Owen says:

      It all feels like just another TV show. Too bad it has such dire consequences for the country.
      I can't believe we have all agreed to call social security and unemployment "entitlements." I hate that word.

  2. Emilybb says:

    In my opinion, it is all theatrics with no base in reality. Politics are just a charade to persuade, confuse, scare and bully the public toward whichever way makes the most sense for those with the power. It used to be that you were told not to believe everything you read, now it seems you can't believe anything you read – or hear or watch.

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