FISH WRAP: ON BEYOND 2012

by E.C. Fish on February 11, 2013

FISH LOGOIS IT 2013 YET?: The second weekend of February is obviously a completely ridiculous time to be writing an end-of-the-year column, and while I could offer a slough of circumstantial excuses, none of them quite explains why I’ve spent weeks and produced a good ream of unfinished fits and starts on this without ever pulling the trigger. It is also tempting to follow the lead of one of my fellow bloggers and just say “because fuck you,” but as late as his copy was, it was still weeks ago, and the phrase seems to have been expunged from the currently posted version, probably for reasons of taste.

It finally occurred to me, fittingly enough on Groundhog Day, that part of my difficulty summing up 2012 had to do with the fact that the damn thing just wouldn’t end. The Fiscal Cliff — a/k/a the Fiscal Bluff, which the nation was supposed to go careening over right after New Year’s Eve — was, in the tradition of the wise King Solomon, cleft in twain; the tax portion was settled on January 2nd and the deadline on the economically dangerous sequestration spending cuts was extended to March 1st, with congressional Republicans still threatening to use them as a point of leverage (read: hostage) in their unceasing quest to prioritize future deficits over current economic crises. The national debate over gun control, revitalized by the horror of the Newtown shootings, dragged on despite popular outcry for action as — you guessed it — congressional Republicans slow-walked the call for legislation in an attempt to run out the clock on the national attention span.

In short, it may be a new year, but despite all the hopeful New Year’s talk of fresh starts, it’s the same old Washington; with some minor variations, we can expect to spend 2013, politically speaking, having the wrong conversations badly, just like we spent 2012.

UNFINISHED BUSINESS — THE BONO AWARDS: Speaking of things left hanging, my extreme tardiness in wrapping up last year means that the winner of the 2012 Bono Award for the most mentally challenged member of Congress has yet to be announced. While we seemed to have two strong nominees in Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY, where there must be something in the water), in the final analysis, McConnell’s embarrassing display of self-filibustering (or “filibusterbating,” easily the year’s best political coinage) was not so much the action of a dumb politician as an example of a calculating politician miscalculating.

The difference between McConnell and Paul is the difference between acute and chronic. McConnell may have done something dumb, but Paul is the walking, talking article 24/7/365, a genuine convinced fool who during his Senate tenure has consistently refused to let facts (or, as he seems to characterize them, “what they want you to think”) get in the way of some of the worst-informed political thinking to get in front of a national-news-feed-connected microphone in quite some time. While this isn’t an uncommon trait in Republican legislators these days, Paul’s seeming sincerity keeps him from the mere hypocrisy or outright howling-at-the-moon craziness that both characterizes most of his party’s caucus and disqualifies them from this award.

It is a decision vindicated in spades by his jaw-droppingly idiotic display at the Senate’s attempted grilling of Hillary Clinton (“Turkey?”) earlier this year. Congratulations, Senator Paul, and best of luck with your preparations for what promises to be one of the most unintentionally hilarious presidential campaigns of all time.

SO, FISH — WHAT’S NEW?: As you can see from the above, not much, really, but 2013 does seem so far to offer some slim hope of incremental change for the better, which, given the circumstances, may be all we can hope for. While the opposition still seems to deny that the 2012 election had any consequences, it did manage to throw the unpopularity of their positions and political strategies into sharp relief, in addition to smacking the hell out of the credibility of most of their media mouthpieces. It also left a president freed from the constraints of reelection and no longer the least bit intimidated by or conciliatory towards them. It was, in short, a victory for the cause of reality-based politics, and one that offers some hope of a somewhat less ridiculous year ahead. Note the “somewhat,” and stay tuned.

For this page and this author, also freed from the constraints of an ongoing election season, it may mean less of an emphasis on turning out a weekly news digest and more on an examination of larger issues. In other words, look out — Fish is feeling think-piecy, and may be trusting you to read the news yourselves a bit more in the coming weeks. Thanks for your attention these last months, and . . . aw, damn, already used the tag line above, didn’t I? Oh, well. See you next week.

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E. C. Fish is the editor and publisher of The Spleen.

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