NORMAN — It used to be that those of us in the media worried about a lack of stories after the election, sweating how we would fill time and space between the ads until the first of the year. That’s not the problem this time around. Now there’s too much going on — so much news that even if we go on vacation, we have to be nervous about it.
Instead of doing holiday puff pieces, we are scrambling to keep up with the fiscal-cliff confrontation, the controversy swirling around Secretary of State wannabe Susan Rice and the remnants of the tattered career of David Petraeus.
As The Washington Post put it, “It’s starting to feel like campaign season all over again.” To quote that old “Saturday Night Live” character Mr. Bill, “ohhhhh nooooo!”
And, yes, we are seeing TVspots from various advocacy groups on both sides of hot issues, like whether to raise taxes on the rich to achieve a deal on avoiding financial disaster. The so-called lame ducks, who usually waddle out of town and into obscurity, are still here, very much a part of the nonstop game of chicken.
It’s the same cast of characters, even those outliers who exercise tight control over the congressional inliars. In one prominent case, that control seems to be slipping a tad. That would be the terror Republicans have long felt over supporting any tax hike for fear of incurring the wrath of Grover Norquist.
Surely you know Grover Norquist. His talent for self-promotion is astounding. He heads an organization called Americans for Tax Reform, but his main claim to notoriety is the pledge he forces GOPcandidates to sign, promising they will not support any increase. Ever. If they go back on that, they can expect to suffer the Grover’s Revenge, which is to say intense opposition in their next primary.
But the next elections are way more than a year away, so the Norquist hold is starting to slip. Several prominent Republican senators — Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bob Corker of Tennessee and Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss, to name a few — are insisting, as Corker put it on CBS, “the only thing I’m honoring is the oath I take when I serve, when I’m sworn in this January.”
On CNN, Norquist called such sentiments “impure thoughts.” He takes the public position that those who ponder straying off the reservation will realize the error of their ways. He’s been around this town since the Reagan years, and these threats of wandering, he says, have happened before.
However, someone as experienced as he is surely understands one of the cardinal rules of politics, which is that promises are made to be broken. That is as bipartisan as anything gets these days, so if some of those who are talking cop-out actually mean what they say, Norquist might have to find some way to save face or come up with a different shtick.
It is way too early to believe that will happen. Many of the same ultra-wealthy do-badders who spent billions of dollars trying to buy the White House and Congress haven’t been deterred by their singular lack of success. Now they’re pouring more money into sabotaging any agreement that might mean they have to pay higher taxes.
To be fair, the unions and others on the left also are financing TVads, and to be fair, some of our richest citizens are actually speaking out for a bargain that would mean they’d have to pay more to the Internal Revenue Service.
The result is that we all are being assaulted with advocacy commercials on television again, and the news is still filled with commentators shouting mindlessly at each other. It’s just another way the United States is unique. Other countries have very short campaign cycles. Ours never ends.
© 2012 Bob Franken Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.