When dis­con­tent stalks the land

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - Opin­ion by Wes­ley Pru­den

Sud­denly it’s the sum­mer of every­one’s dis­con­tent, and we’re not even to the Fourth of July. The Democrats are plot­ting mutiny over Nancy Pelosi’s vast and costly scheme to make the weather be­have. Bank­rupt Gen­eral Motors gets a new pres­i­dent who says he doesn’t know any­thing about cars. Barack Obama wants the feds to de­cree how much an ex­ec­u­tive should be paid for his work. The pres­i­dent’s erst­while pas­tor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, is baaaack, with more tall tales of Jewish per­fidy. Hil and Bill (he no longer gets top billing even at home) not only can’t elect a gov­er­nor of Vir­ginia but can’t even get a pal elected to the state leg­is­la­ture, and Bar­ney Frank, ever alert to the sight of a cam­era, walks out of a tele­vi­sion in­ter­view.

It’s enough to make a body cry, or at least laugh, ex­cept in Aus­tria, which is se­ri­ously brac­ing for the open­ing of Sacha Baron Co­hen’s lat­est sum­mer prank, a movie called “Bruno.” Aus­tria is the land of the waltz, the Sacher torte and a cer­tain pi­o­neer in eth­nic cleans­ing, and Baron Co­hen’s new movie is a trib­ute, if any­one wants to call it that, to the orig­i­nal fa­ther­land. But satire is an ac­quired taste that the Aus­tri­ans have not yet ac­quired.

“Bruno” is an over-the-top gay fash­ion­ista who dreams of be­ing the most fa­mous Aus­trian since Hitler, and yearns “to live the Aus­trian dream of find­ing a part­ner, buy­ing a dun­geon and start­ing a fam­ily.” Baron Co­hen’s first movie, “Bo­rat: Cul­tural Learn­ings of Amer­ica for Make Ben­e­fits Glo­ri­ous Na­tion of Kaza­khstan” did for Kaza­khstan what Bill Clin­ton did for Arkansas, and now the baron is do­ing it all over Aus­tria. (There’s even a cameo role for Arkansas.)

One of our own barons — Rep. Bar­ney Frank, a baron of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives — in­dulged in a lit­tle the­ater him­self last week. When he didn’t like the way the ques­tions were asked, he got in a cat­fight with a tele­vi­sion in­ter­viewer over the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s hec­tor­ing of pri­vate com­pa­nies to limit the pay of their ex­ec­u­tives. So he did his Dan Rather im­per­son­ation and rudely walked off the set in mid-ques­tion.

For now the Democrats say they only want to limit how pub­licly traded com­pa­nies can pay their ex­ec­u­tives, but any­one who has been in Wash­ing­ton for more than a fort­night knows what’s com­ing next. Wall Street to­day, Main Street to­mor­row. The pres­i­dent knows bet- ter than to waste a cri­sis.

But Bar­ney as­sured wit­nesses at a con­gres­sional hear­ing that “we’re not talk­ing here about the amount. We are talk­ing here about the struc­ture of com­pen­sa­tion. And I be­lieve the struc­ture of com­pen­sa­tion has been flawed.” Not as flawed as the way con­gress­men struc­ture their own pay, of course, with au­to­matic raises and a flood of hid­den perks, but you could ask Bar­ney or any other con­gress­man and he would tell you, “Well, that’s dif­fer­ent.”

Gene Sper­ling, an aide to Trea­sury Sec­re­tary Ti­mothy Gei­th­ner, said pshaw, no­body’s about to tell cor­po­ra­tions how to make out the pay­roll. “I can say with a cer­tainty that no­body in the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is propos­ing such a thing,” he told a House com­mit­tee on June 11. But — and there’s al­ways the “but” — he was will­ing to lay out a case for how com­pa­nies could con­trib­ute to fi­nan­cial cri­sis if they are not closely su­per­vised by strict nan­nies armed with the weapons of gov­ern­ment.

Bill Clin­ton, for his part, con­tin­ues to demon­strate that good times are never for­ever. This could be an ob­ject les­son for gloomy Repub­li­cans who imag­ine that Barack Obama is the agent of doom that lies just around the cor­ner. Only yes­ter­day the Boy Pres­i­dent’s magic worked ev­ery­where. He went into Vir­ginia this spring to cam­paign for Terry McAuliffe, the bag man for the cam­paigns of both Hil and Bill who as­pired to be the gov­er­nor of Vir­ginia. When the pub­lic-opin­ion polls through­out win­ter and spring showed Gov. Terry McAuliffe to be as in­evitable as Pres­i­dent Hil­lary Clin­ton, Bill fig­ured it was safe to cam­paign for him. Bill was so con­fi­dent of his mojo, in fact, that he hit the stump for an­other pal try­ing only for the state leg­is­la­ture. He ran a dis­mal third, demon­strat­ing, per­haps, that ex-pres­i­dents just ain’t what they used to be.

The skies all over Amer­ica seemed lit­tered with lit­tle clouds no big­ger than a la­dy­like fist, if an ob­ser­vant Demo­crat took the trou­ble to look. Clouds can blow away as quickly as they ar­rive, but some­times they come with rain and flood. If noth­ing else, they’re wit­ness to the iron law of life, that sum­mer, win­ter or fall, noth­ing re­cedes like suc­cess.

Wes­ley Pru­den is ed­i­tor emer­i­tus of The Wash­ing­ton Times.

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