As the midnight hour loomed, the Shutdown Standoff continued and the danger mounted hour by hour. The political cowpokes were still ambling along toward the OK Corral, the women and children huddling behind closed doors, and law-abidin' citizens slowly shaking their heads at the whole spectacle.
Like the strong non-leader he is, the president defended Obamacare past the last minute even as its wobbly wheels threatened to come off, all the Senate did was re-pass it along with the rest of the budget, and the House stuck with its refusal to approve a budget that didn't delay it -- at least until some emergency repairs could be made over the next year. In short, if you will forgive my bowdlerism of military slang, it was Situation Normal All Fouled Up in the nation's capital.
A chagrined America could only stand by, like the rest of the world, and watch the tragicomedy unfold. Again. The country's much abused citizens could look up and down, left and right, as the hours passed and then the minutes ticked away, and still not see a trace of reason, compromise, negotiation or any of the other elements that make a supposed republic work.
It was the screenplay of "High Noon" taking place in real time, only the deadline, fittingly enough, was darkest midnight. Gary Cooper, where were you when you were most needed?
Our president might compromise with Tehran's mullahs, or the Butcher of Damascus, but some folks were clearly beyond the pale, namely, John Boehner and his House Republicans. And so things stood at press time, when there seemed no help but prayer. For as Bismarck once remarked, God looks after fools, drunkards and the United States of America. No wonder the currency says In God We Trust. Because we certainly can't trust this bunch in Washington. Not that any of them ever listen, but would it be so bad if both sides would agree to meet halfway? Or any way short of shutting down the government of the United States?
If the White House and the majority party in the Senate won't accept a one-year delay for Obamacare, how about six months? And surely no one serious, or just rational, can fail to see what a mistake passing that destructive tax on medical devices was, what with its potential for harming both American companies and patients, not to mention scientific research in this country in general.
Surely, even Democrats can agree to sacrifice that loser of a tax. And the Republican caucus in the House can settle for whatever progress it can get, and pass that budget. Instead of cutting its own political throat -- because you know who'll get blamed for the federal government's shutting down.
So how about it, ladies and gentlemen, why not act like it? Accept half a loaf and fight another day. Or would that be unspeakably sensible?
Paul Greenberg is editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. Email, email@example.com.