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The Wizard of Washington

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
This week, the Walt Disney Company releases its $325 million spectacular, "Oz the Great and Powerful" -- a "prequel," as these things are called, to You Know What. We learn (one supposes) exactly how a Kansas carnival balloonist became the Wizard.

We'll have to pay in order to divine the secret, but a certain intuition grows and spreads, namely that the Wiz, after the example of pitchmen in all times and places, became what he became by talking. About his own wonderfulness.

Does he put you in mind of anyone who appears on television a lot these days, jetting all over the country at taxpayer expense, delivering speeches, holding press conferences, making bold pronouncements as to actions he requires and outcomes he expects?

The Wizard of Washington, prior to unleashing his anti-sequester campaign, might have benefited from a sneak preview of the Disney saga. Or, for that matter, a special viewing of the 1939 MGM classic, wherein Frank Morgan's fast talking balloonist discovers, shall we say, his human limitations.

The Wizard of Washington got his bluff called by the Speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives. It was way past time.

The White House carnival likely has a ways to go, but, perchance, despite having to backtrack on his forecasts of catastrophe should the sequester actually go through, the Wizard learned something useful, namely, that twisting facts and making nonsensical claims doesn't always carry the day. If a comparable insight dawns soon on the media, not to mention the voters, we'll be getting somewhere.

The Washington Wizard's modus operandi, for as long as the general population has known him, has been to make bold, decisive statements about 1) his vision and 2) his opponents. We always find, taking in one of his speeches, that his vision is inspired and transformational, whereas his opponents are just basically not plugged in. They don't know what they're talking about. All they want is to protect -- as it was given out during the anti-sequester campaign -- oilmen and owners of corporate jets.

That the idea of a sequester that had originated in the White House, and not with his misguided opponents, was an admission that had to be pried, like a dead molar, from the mouths of the Wizard and his surrogates. Not that there was much to the admission when it came: The thing couldn't be helped, you see. The other side wasn't reasonable in its approach to spending cuts.

The truth was, owning up to the folly of a campaign built on unsupported prophecies of disaster would have been the same as admitting that Republicans had a point worth listening to, that federal spending was a problem in need of a solution, that we couldn't go on the way we were going, that compromise of some sort had to be effected.

None of this the Wizard could say, what with his whole political strategy predicated on kneecapping the Republicans, detaching them from relevance in the debate over his transformative initiatives.

The Wizard of Washington puts on, if truth be told, a show far superior to that of Oz's guiding genius. A show, nonetheless, is a show, an act, a pretense. As the saying goes, truth must be out, as happened in Oz, when mischievous little Toto collapsed the curtain concealing the Wiz from the suckers he dominated by old-fashioned bluff.

The Wizard of Washington enjoys infinitely more protection, what with the major media devoted to cutting him slack, playing up the arguments of his hired apologists, often declining even to test his evidence and premises.

From having his bluff called publicly and embarrassingly by John Boehner and the Republicans, the Washington Wizard may rebound in the short run. I tell you, ladies and gents, that man does put on a show! One of the wonders of the world, even so, is the stratospheric rise of the hot-air balloon belonging to a community organizer more appropriately noted for self-esteem than for statesmanship.

Can the Wizard stay aloft? If not, watch out below!

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