Saturday, July 23, 2011

Kabuki Kablooie

The debt talks got to the tantrum stage yesterday when House Speaker John Boehner took his balls and went back to the House, presumably to give them back to Eric Cantor.

Facing the specter of the government’s first default, President Obama summoned congressional leaders to the White House for an emergency meeting Saturday morning, and Senate leaders rushed to revive a fallback strategy for raising the debt limit before the Aug. 2 deadline.

“We have now run out of time,” a visibly angry Obama said during an impromptu White House news conference held after Boehner (R-Ohio) called to say he was walking out on the talks for the second time in two weeks — again citing differences over taxes. Now, Obama said, “one of the questions that the Republican Party is going to have to ask itself is: Can they say yes to anything?”

This whole thing is playing out the way these crisis situations always do; lurid bits of gossip being floated by reporters on the White House lawn and trying to come up with some reason to justify staying on the air and preempting a rebroadcast of a 2003 episode of Lockdown.

It’s theatre; as predictable as a traditional Japanese kabuki. We know how it will end. (Ezra Klein lays out the three scenarios.) The stock characters all know their roles and their actions, the audience knows exactly what they’re going to see, the outcome is preordained. And still we watch because we wait to see if there’s any enlightenment for us by observing the characters in their roles.