The dysfunction of the American government has never been so transparent.

With the so-called Super-Committee kaput, more market instability looming and the distinct possibility of another recession, the absolute inability of Washington to solve the nation’s fiscal problems is inescapable.

The task was not that difficult: cut $1.2 trillion out of the budget over the next 10 years to begin to reduce the $15 trillion national debt. The common-sense answer was obvious to ordinary Americans: trim entitlements slightly and increase tax revenues modestly. Combine that with an extension of the payroll tax cut and the soon-to-expire unemployment benefits and there is a good chance the recovery will accelerate. Repeal the senseless Bush tax cuts on the wealthy and the economy could step on the pedal.

But the Super-Committee proved to be no more able to do that than the divided and dysfunctional Congress as a whole. So the blame-game has begun, with plenty to go around. It is a favorite sport in Washington, Capitol Hill’s Thanksgiving gift to the nation. As predictable as a Redskins defeat.

The public will surely spread the blame, charging both parties with the failure, as well as the executive branch. As it should. The Republicans are likely to get the lion’s share and pay the heavier price, but the Democrats, especially the so-called leadership, will pay as well. As it should.

President Obama will not escape this latest debacle. He may have been off in Asia reasserting the U.S. role in that region, but he wasn’t far enough away from the disaster in D.C. to avoid his share of the responsibility. The painful reality of the President’s current situation is that he has a plan: a jobs bill, proposals for an infrastructure bank, tax reform, etc. , that would surely help, but he lacks the political chops to get it enacted. So, ill-served by a weak staff, he fritters around the edges of the problem. His base sticks with him, but the independents he needs to get re-elected are drifting away.

Nonetheless, from the Las Vegas bookmaker’s point of view, he remains the odds-on favorite to be re-elected. Why? The disarray in the Republican field, mainly, and the growing sense among voters that divided government is part of the problem, not the solution. It is inescapably clear that in our system, as it functions today, real progress can only be made when one party or the other controls the White House and Congress.

It is up to be the public to decide which party should be in control. The voters need to give that party the political clout to pursue a solution. If the public doesn’t like the result, they can change it in the next election.

But at least there could be movement, instead of gridlock.


My Republican Friends

My Republican Friends…

…are embarrassed by the field and the foibles of the current crop of Republican candidates for the party’s presidential nomination.

My Republican friends — and I do have them — are past patience with the Hermanator, who can’t seem to recall the difference between Libya and other Arab states, what he is for and what he is against. All he knows is that whatever President Obama did with that country, wherever it is, was wrong, and The Herman would have done better. His brain freeze with the editorial board of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is only the latest evidence of his lack of preparation and credentials for the top job. Never mind the sexual harassment accusations, serious as they may be. The Presidency is not a starter job in politics, with the notable exception of Dwight Eisenhower.

My Republican friends have taken to laughing, bitterly, about Rick Perry. Not only his erratic performance in New Hampshire, not only his inability to remember the third federal department he wants to eliminate (he need only have referred to his own stump speech for a clue.) It is the whole Perry package: the walk, the talk, the hair, the Texas twang, the whole deal. That dog won’t hunt, as they like to say in Austin, not after W, and my Republican friends know it.

My Republican friends have already dismissed Rick and Ron and Michelle and Sarah and when I ask them about Newt, they tend to sigh. “Ah, Newt,” they say, “so bright, so gifted, but no, we can’t have Newt, not after the checkered marital history, the questionable money-making schemes.” Sadly, they say, Newt’s too old, his moment is past. Newt, we hardly knew ye. Jon Huntsman? Terrific guy, really knows his foreign policy, great daughters, why doesn’t anyone notice him? David Petraeus? Now, there is a general! A regular Ike. But is he even a Republican? Anyway, he just got a new job, for Obama, of all people, and its too late to start in Iowa, with the caucuses just a couple of months away.

My Republican friends then turn to Mitt. They just look blank for a moment. Well, yes, of course, there’s Mitt (there’s always, Mitt, or at least it seems that way.) Fine guy, great family, did a hellova job with the Olympics. The Massachusetts thing? Well, he was just doing what he had to do to govern that hopelessly blue state. We can count on Mitt to do the right thing, or at least the thing he needs to do to get nominated. “He’s our guy,” my Republican friends say. “He’ll be great.

“Won’t he?”

TERENCE SMITH is a journalist. His website is



Fair warning: my record as a political prognosticator is checkered, to say the least.

I established my credentials in 1980 by declaring on live television in the midst of the lopsided Presidential race that…”The American people are not going to elect a failed, B-movie actor to the highest office in the land.”

Since then, I’ve been wrong more often than right.

That said, I have a sense now that the current, confused state of the Republican race is opening an opportunity for Newt Gingrich to move up in the polls. By contrast with the others, he seems confident and experienced in the debates, with his sense of humor intact. I still expect Mitt Romney to bore the Republican electorate into the conclusion that he is their best prospect to defeat President Obama in the general election. He’ll get the nomination eventually, but Newt has a moment here, an opportunity to move up from the second tier of candidates, a chance to be viewed as adult among children.


Because the others are all self-destructing, each in their own distinctive fashion. Can you still spell Tim Pawlenty? Do you still take Michelle Bachman seriously? Can Rick Perry ever be seen as more than a Texas cartoon, all hat and swagger, no cattle? Will Ron Paul ever be a double-digit candidate? Can Jon Huntsman ever gain traction? Why is Rick Santorum still in the race? What is Herman Cain thinking? I think you know the answers.

So that opens the avenue for Newt to move ahead. The Hermanator’s problems are his opportunity. To be sure, Gingrich has his own well-documented capacity for self-destruction. He talks faster than he thinks and often gets in trouble. He certainly has had his own, highly publicized marital history. And he is probably too old to get the votes of many younger voters.

But he has been around the block more than once and it shows in his confident responses in the debates. He won’t likely be the nominee by next spring, much less President, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Republican race become a Romney-Gingrich contest, with Mitt eventually getting the nod.

Remember, you read it here, from the same sage that forecast the 1980 race so accurately.

TERENCE SMITH is a journalist. His website is