When discontent stalks the land
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.