"If only we had sold our stocks a few weeks ago." "If only I'd had the brakes checked before she drove up to the mountains."
There are few sadder words than those of regret at letting time pass until the catastrophe hits. Neither individuals, nor armies, nor nations are exempt from the human tendency to wait too long before acting -- and paying a terrible price for the delay.
These thoughts, among others, crossed my mind as I have watched politicians across the ideological spectrum react to the deficit commission's report last week.
Whatever substantive view of the proposal the various politicians had -- I didn't see a single senior player express the desire to take the report as an opportunity to immediately throw all our effort into developing and passing into law a workable proposal.
What we did see was the predictable criticisms being muttered while all sides seemed to be preparing for a long blocking campaign.
This fits into the emerging Washington mentality regarding most topics: that we are set for gridlock and the long slog of the 2012 campaign before anything significant is likely to be passed into law sometime in 2013 or beyond.
Even as Greece, Spain and Ireland raise the specter of sovereign debt crises, even as France and Britain take bold action to bring their excessive spending under control (at the price of major street violence in their capital cities) American politicians focus on the general unacceptability of a proposal that includes anything that doesn't quite fit their ideological predilections. If they can't have it exactly their way, then they don't want it at all. They are prepared to just coast forward at multi-trillion dollar yearly deficits, leaving only a string of condemnatory press releases in their wake.
But there are Cassandras out there warning against such delays. This spring, Fed Chairman Bernanke warned Congress that the United States could soon face a debt crisis like the one in Greece.
"It's not something that is 10 years away. It affects the markets currently," he told the House Financial Services Committee. "It is possible that bond markets will become worried about the sustainability (of yearly deficits over $1 trillion), and we may find ourselves facing higher interest rates even today."
Just last weekend, the former Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan spoke on NBC's "Meet the Press," saying he believed "something equivalent to what Bowles and Simpson put out is going to be approved by Congress. But the only question is whether it is before or after a crisis in the bond market."
Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.
In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.