THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING
Brian McGrory

Leadership now, please

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / August 10, 2011

E-mail this article

Invalid E-mail address
Invalid E-mail address

Sending your article

Your article has been sent.

Text size +

I’m pleading with John Kerry, one of the rare adults in Washington these days, to knock it off with the “Tea Party downgrade’’ line he’s been tossing around national TV, especially now that he’s been named to the budget-cutting “super committee.’’ I’m begging Barack Obama to cut it out with the embarrassing “We’ve always been and always will be a triple-A country’’ stuff he pulled in his abysmal Monday pep talk. I’m urging John Boehner to find some spine in dealing with the extremists within his own party.

We’re in epic trouble, ladies and gentlemen, and there’s a frightening amount of potential that it’s about to get an awful lot worse. Forget the Standard & Poor’s downgrade, which may or may not have been warranted. Yes, they’re acting like a bunch of executive idiots. Yes, they were discredited when they missed the banking collapse in 2008. But their decision on the US credit rating was far more a symptom of our problems than a cause.

The reality is, we have a government in Washington that has seized up in its tracks, and if somebody somewhere doesn’t immediately rise to the occasion, the nation and its people are in for a whole new world of pain.

Everything I know about basic economics could rest on the head of a pin, but I know just enough to be sure of this: The stock market sell-off that’s been going on over the last couple of weeks - yesterday’s uptick aside - is at its core a cry for help. Traders, investors, the business community, the country, they are all pleading for some adult supervision to help sort things out.

So how do the princes and princesses of the Potomac react in this time of dire need? They do the only thing they know how. They point fingers at one another. They buck and kick trying to gain political advantage. They speak in slogans and talking points rather than solutions.

The nation now sits on the precipice of a second scary recession, with chronic joblessness, massive debt, and entitlement programs that are, at best, difficult to sustain. What we need is some statesmanship. What we get out of Washington is nothing more than noise.

If you feel the need to blame, and it’s become the way of the day, then blame a Republican representative named Eric Cantor of Virginia, who used the occasion of the market crash to warn his House colleagues not to succumb to mounting pressure and compromise on new revenues. Better to drive the entire economy off a steep cliff than try to find a creative fix.

Blame Boehner, the House speaker, who actually had a compromise with Obama within reach a couple of weeks ago, then walked away from the deal because the minions in his caucus were upset that he had the audacity to deal with Democrats.

Blame Obama, who seems to be a unique kind of president - one entirely unburdened by conviction. That he is at least saying he wants to create more jobs, and offering something beyond the Tea Party mantra of “No,’’ is only the more frustrating because of his complete unwillingness to take an unwavering stand.

Pick a politician in Washington, any politician of either party, and there’s plenty of blame to go around. But that’s not the point any more. All the blame in the world isn’t going to cut our debt. And it’s not going to find anyone a job.

Which gets to the overriding problem in this summer of discontent. We’re supposed to be better than this, individually and collectively, the people and their leaders - able to bridge differences, reach compromises, and find solutions in the name of the common good. We’re supposed to be resilient, always able to bounce back from wars, natural and manmade disasters, a depression, so many recessions, even the heinous attacks of Sept. 11.

But as a nation looks to its government for help and leadership in the face of another fiscal crisis, there is nothing good to see. Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, this is a sad and scary time.

McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.