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Thursday, November 8, 2012

Sometimes it is what it is

Terms such as decisive and comprehensive are being tossed around in the post-election analysis.  Bob Woodward is quick to remind that 59 million people voted for Mitt Romney.  That might not be very decisive.  But on both the federal and state levels, the nation took a more liberal stance.  That is fairly comprehensive.  Nevertheless, the moral fracture that divides the American left and right so definitively is still there, and signs that there is any possibility of healing it are scant.  

Endomorph and mesomorph work together.
 An image that lingers over the election is President Obama and Governor Chris Christie forming a working relationship to deal with the effects of superstorm Sandy. Whatever the men did would become fodder for all of those given to political commentary who will strive to create some massive, motive-laden sub texts of what the meeting of those two men means.  What it ultimately means is that a peculiarity of humanity is that it possesses more functioning assholes than it does cognitive brains.  Everyone has at least one asshole, but not everyone has a workable brain.  That preponderance of assholes colors the world. Assholes go over big on cable carping shows and Internet forums.  Brains are not revered or listened to among that vast audience that needs the rush of confrontation and the titillation of controversy.  Much time is spent arranging confrontation and making up controversy.  

The meeting of Gov. Christy and President Obama was an unusual moment.  Not because of the circumstance.  Martialing the resources to help people caught in a natural disaster is part of their jobs.  That's what they did.  Their jobs.  And they did them well.  And they did them without using each other as foils for political points, and that is what made it an unusual moment.  They credited each other for effort, cooperation, and martialing the resources at their command.  The fact that their cooperative efforts is unusual says something about the media-conditioned world we have created.  The assholes are still carping and conjecturing that Christie slighted Mitt Romney and that Obama got blown back into office on the winds of a hurricane.  The fact is that the men were just doing their jobs, and doing them well.

There is some political background in this.  In the late 90s we had a couple of wild winters that laid down so much snow that when it melted lakes were formed where they had not been before and some glacial potholes refilled.  Then one spring, we had a massive blizzard and livestock was killed by the snow storm and carcasses were floating about when the snow melted.  The FEMA division which was headed by some South Dakotans at the time got busy getting hay and feed dropped in to the living livestock by cargo plane and helicopter, and it got the bulldozers and trucks out to help dispose of the carcasses and help farmers and ranchers get on top of the messes.  Everyone did their job, and the incident was soon forgotten.  I remember it because I was among those who were asked to compile a report on how the operation was conducted and what the people who were helped thought of the effort.  The purpose of the report was so the agency and the congressional committee that had oversight could review it and make any adjustments and improvements to the way FEMA and cooperating agencies handled it.  Everybody involved went quietly about their work, identified areas that could be made more responsive and efficient, and set about making improvements for the next time the agency was called upon.  It  was all routine, people doing the jobs they were charged to do.  Politics did not enter into the incident at all, even when the Congressional committees met to do their job, which was to assure the public that an agency they funded and depended on in emergencies was functioning properly.  And everybody involved understood that attempts to find some political grist to use  against the parties would be to inflict petty incompetence on a matter that was carried out with competence and integrity.

Katrina was a different matter.  FEMA's leadership had been taken over by political appointees who were neither qualified nor interested in doing the job.  The administration's response to Katrina was so mired in political posturing and cover up that it became a model for how not to do things.  It was what it was.  A tepid response by those who poltically did not believe that federal government should have a role in providing vigorous and aggressive help and coordination. Officials knew in some detail what not to do when Sandy came along.  They knew they needed to put people in place who knew the logistics of emergency response, and they did their jobs.   Although the interruptionss were massive and complicated and are still being repaired and people are frustrated, the work is being done and people are being helped.  

But we have more assholes than brains running loose like a coyotes hunting for pet dogs on leashes to satisfy their predatory instincts.  

When we saw President Obama and Gov. Christie working together, it was what it was.  Two men doing their jobs.  And when President Obama won re-election, it was what it was:  an election that decided who shall be president.  

That president and Congress have some crucial work to do to avoid another recession.  The big question is if the assholes will let them. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States