There were some big doings in the nation's capital the other celebratory day. A new health-care bill had been passed at last. Whatever its official title, its unofficial one in the headlines was Landmark Health Care Bill. A festive signing was held in the White House with souvenir pens all around. The president couldn't get through his remarks without being interrupted by standing ovations. Happy Days Are Here Again!
All rites were observed in fulsome full, including the mandatory obscenity whispered into the president's ear by his vice. ("This is a big f------ deal.") Not since Andrew Johnson has the country had a vice president so sure to provide embarrassment on every public occasion. There's no ceremonial event Joe Biden can't make uncomfortable. The happy time when vice presidents were seen and not heard passed long ago. Regrettably.
It was all so Washington, 2010. Or maybe Rome, First Century A.D. What a pity Tacitus is no longer with us. It would all be familiar to that Roman historian and gossip -- the republic become empire, the fawning tributes from subjects to Caesar, the sports spectaculars and culture of celebrity, the Jewish wars, and most of all the pretentiousness. As for the mere populace, it watches and waits, warily.
A second, revised health-care bill and doorstopper correcting the first, and about as encyclopedic, was soon on its way to the president's desk. Call it an encore. Who could ask for anything more?
So is everybody feeling healthier now?
Didn't think so.
It's all over now, including the shouting. Only the clean-up awaits. And the litigation, of course. And the explanations of how all the provisions and counter-provisions fit together, if they do. And the presidential sales job continues. It never ceases. Instead of relief after all the debates and votes, a curious lull has set in. One thinks of New Orleans after Katrina had passed with what, at first, looked like only a glancing blow at the city. Decompression was setting in. People were coming back onto the streets....
Then the levees gave way.
So is this the calm after the storm or before one? Why not both? All is outwardly calm, inwardly apprehensive. As if this battered old republic and shiny new mass-democracy were waiting for the next shock wave to hit.
This is what it must be like entering the eye of a hurricane. The torrential downpour has ceased. The air is still. But for how long?