The shutdown shuffle is the latest craze
Not my fault. Don’t blame me.
The shutdown, I mean. If there’s a government shutdown and the whole thing—or even most of the whole thing—comes to a crashing halt, and the phones don’t get answered and the parks are closed and the forms don’t get processed and the checks don’t go out…
It’s not my fault.
I’m glad we could clear that up. Because the last thing I want to see happen—even more than I don’t want to see our political leaders at each others’ throats and the lights going out and important services suddenly going missing—is to be held even vaguely responsible for even a tiny little bit of it.
For that matter, if there’s not a government shutdown, because they finally reached some sort of compromise, but you didn’t want them to compromise, and as far as you’re concerned they gave away the store when they should have just stood firm and made the other guys cave instead of wimping out at the very last minute…
That’s not my fault either. Just so you know.
I feel much better now, now that we’ve put that all behind us. I’ve been really worried about a shutdown, the same as our leaders in Washington have been really worried about it. But what I’ve been really, really worried about—and this is the same as our leaders in Washington, too—is that I might get blamed for it.
This wouldn’t be fair, of course. The blame, as it always does, would actually lie elsewhere. But who wants to take that chance? The chance that somebody might misunderstand my role, or—worse yet—deliberately distort it for partisan advantage?
As it happens, I was in Washington earlier this week, but certainly not to stir up more antagonisms. In fact, I was hoping that cooler heads would prevail—assuming there were any cooler heads still left in Washington. And personally, I was willing to go the extra mile. (Particularly when I got off at the wrong Metro stop that one time.)
But as I stand here today, I can’t tell you that my presence in Washington at the height of the crisis led anyone to step back from the abyss. If I’m wrong about that, and reasonableness suddenly does break through and the crisis is averted, then naturally I’ll be happy to take whatever credit I can.
But not the blame.
See, I’m not the one who made promises to my constituents that I had no way of making happen, let alone promising them that I wouldn’t compromise on anything important—and they thought everything was important—no matter what.
I’m not the one who didn’t do the math: If there are a few dozen of us who’ve committed to do X, but there are at least as many dozens of others who’ve committed to do Not-X, then the most likely result isn’t going to be either X or Not-X, but something in between, and letting my constituents think otherwise was amazingly careless of me, not to mention dangerous to my future political health. (Can you say “primary challenge”?)
But I’m also not the one who decided that if I didn’t make those promises, and if I did the math and explained the math, I might never be elected in the first place.
Those were somebody else’s decisions. Not mine. So you’ll certainly want to keep that in mind if it gets ugly, or if this shutdown showdown doesn’t go exactly the way you want it to go.
Not my fault.
Rick Horowitz is a syndicated columnist. You can write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.