Even in Washington, things do slow down somewhat during Christmas Week. Nevertheless, I still had full consultation schedules every day but Tuesday, which was Christmas Eve, and, of course, on Wednesday, Christmas Day, when everybody in town except the military, the cops, the firemen, the spies and the hookers goes off duty.
But President Obama got right back to work on Thursday, despite being in Hawaii, where I’m sure nobody would have noticed or cared if he had slept late and put his feet up on the day after Christmas. He had something so important to do it couldn’t wait, however – signing the first budget bill since 2009 into law.
Yes, that’s right, the United States government hasn’t had an actual budget since 2009. Instead, the whole circus has subsisted until now, more or less, on things called Continuing Resolutions. Getting that federal budget was like pulling teeth, Obama knew it, and he wasn’t about to waste any time making it official. As it turned out, the President’s diligent dedication to his job created additional work for me today, when I received a visit from Austin Houston Crockett Bowie Bonham III – noted conservative, wealthy Texan, fervent patriot, and solid bastion of the Tea Party.
“What brings you to the Nation’s Capital between Christmas and New Years?” I asked as he sprawled his rangy frame on the couch by the picture window in my office.
“Gettin’ the jump on them RINO sidewinders that betrayed America by voting for that Democrat budget,” he drawled. “I’m gonna be here layin’ for ‘em when they come back to the Hill after Congress re-convenes.”
“Hopefully,” I jested, “you’re not going be waiting behind a rock with your Winchester to bushwack them.”
“Nope,” he chuckled, “I plan on callin’ ‘em out on the main drag to settle our differences like gentlemen. Course, this bein’ Washington DC, I reckon we’ll have to use spit balls at five paces. Unless the Democrats pass a spit ball control law, that is. But seriously, Tom,” he continued, “I’m not just talkin’ about the Republicans who voted for that there Democrat budget – the Tea Party is also after the ones who didn’t, but got real sneaky about it, like Mitch McConnell.”
“By that you mean,” I sought to clarify, “that McConnell voted to support cloture in the Senate, but then got to say he voted against the budget bill itself?”
“Yep,” Austin nodded. “And I don’t know who he thinks he’s foolin’ with that act.”
“Kentucky Republican primary voters in 2014?” I ventured.
“The Tea Party,” Austin assured me, “is gonna make damn sure he don’t fool nobody, not him and not that two-faced, back-stabbin’ coyote John Cornyn, or that double-dealin’ rat John Thune, neither!”
“You should be aware,” I cautioned, “there’s a growing consensus that after nearly five years of failed attempts to depose Obama, block key legislation and destroy the federal government, the Tea Party has learned its lesson.”
“The Tea Party,” Austin emphatically declared, “ain’t learned nothin’, ain’t gonna learn nothin’ and don’t wanna learn nothin,’ so help us God!”
“You all are a pretty determined bunch,” I conceded.
“Damn right we are,” Austin affirmed. “And that there Democrat budget was written by the Devil Himself!”
“Actually,” I observed, “it was written by a very nice lady from Washington state, Senator Patty Murray, and your own Tea Party darling, Representative Paul Ryan.”
“Then it’s obviously a case of demonic possession,” Austin insisted, “at least as far as Paul Ryan is concerned. On the other hand, I bet that there Murray woman probably has a Satanic altar in her basement. There ain’t no end to the evil in that Democrat budget! It locks in funding for Obamacare, it raises discretionary spending over a trillion dollars, it requires Uncle Sam to Welsh on sixty-three billion dollars in sequester cuts, and it only reduces the deficit by twenty-eight billion dollars – and that’s over ten whole years!”
“You forgot to mention,” I noted, “that it raises taxes, too.”
Austin shot an angry glare through the picture window at the White House. “Don’t remind me,” he huffed, “I’m already madder than a scalded pole cat!”
“It did end the extension of unemployment payments,” I pointed out. “That’s something which should appeal to the Tea Party.”
“Anybody can’t find a job in three years,” he snorted, “either ain’t lookin’ or won’t work for minimum wage. And I don’t know who the hell that John Boehner thinks he is, sayin’ what he did about the Tea Party!”
“You mean, him calling you ‘grass roots con men’ in his remarks to the press?” I asked.
“That,” Austin angrily affirmed, “and a whole lot of other stuff like that! Listen here, Tom,” he pressed on, “the reason I came to see you is, we Tea Party leaders are tired of backing politicians that cave in to the Democrats. We’re sick of spending millions on Republican primaries to defeat namby-pamby moderates just so our candidate can go to Congress and end up making deals with Democrats just like some kind of namby-pamby moderate! We want strong, committed Republican candidates that we can depend on to obstruct legislation, dismantle the federal bureaucracy, and bring the wheels of government to a screeching halt! And to accomplish that, Tom, we’ve decided that in the future, before we start pourin’ wheelbarrows full of money into the campaign coffers of politicians who claim to be rock-ribbed, dedicated, genuine and ideologically pure conservatives, they’re gonna have to pass a test!”
“Pass a test?” I repeated, just to make sure I had not misheard what Austin said.
“Yep,” he confirmed. “Pass a test. Trouble is, once we came to that decision, you see, we couldn’t figger out what kind of stuff ought to be in a test like that. And that’s why I’m here, Tom – to find out from you what that test should say.”
“When,” I inquired, “do you envision administering this test to potential Tea Party candidates for Congress?”
“Oh, well,” Austin replied in a thoughtful tone, “we discussed that, and came to the conclusion the best time to give them the test would be at their first major fund-raiser. You know, we’d send a couple of our guys to it, let the candidate start hittin’ them up for money, as candidates will do, you know, and then take the candidate aside and make it clear that if they can pass the test tonight, then tomorrow they’ll have all the money they need to win the Republican primary, followed by all the money they need to win the general election.”
“And then,” I presumed, “you’d arrange to meet with them in a back room somewhere, administer the test, take it back to a committee of Tea Party officials and evaluate the results?”
“Pretty much,” Austin agreed.
“Okay,” I began, “in that case, you would want to go with a standardized, pre-formatted, oral exam with True-False, Fill-in-the-Blank and Multiple-Choice questions.”
“Sounds purty practical,” Austin opined as he took out his Windows Phone and began making notes. “Got some examples?”
“A typical Multiple-Choice selection,” I offered, “would go something like, ‘Lying to Democrats is completely acceptable because: A. Most Democrats are pathological liars themselves; B. Most Democrats are Socialists and Socialism is all lies; C. Most Democrats are gay or otherwise morally degenerate; or, D. All of the above.’”
“Now we’re cookin’ with gas!” Austin exclaimed in delight. “Right there is a question the Tea Party needs to get the answer to from every candidate we back! Uh, what is it, by the way?”
“The correct answer to select for the type of Tea Party candidate you seek,” I told him, “is ‘D. All of the above.’”
“Oh, hell,” Austin exclaimed, slapping himself in the forehead, “course it is! Damn! So obvious and I missed it!”
“Here’s another one,” I offered, “Poor people are on welfare and food stamps because: A. They’re too lazy to work; B. They’re not smart enough to compete in the job market; C. Taxes are too high; D. They haven’t been taught useful job skills; or, E. All of the above.”
“All of the above!” Austin exuberantly shouted.
“No,” I gently chided, “it’s a tricky one, but that’s the point – you want to weed out the candidates who might turn on the Tea Party when they get to Washington. Somebody who feels sorry for the poor because they generally aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed, or someone who sympathizes with them because they haven’t been given adequate educational opportunities, presents a significant risk of – you’ll forgive the expression – compromising with moderate or liberal colleagues in their house of Congress. The correct answer for your loyal Tea Party candidate could only be ‘C. Taxes are too high’ because a true Tea Party idealogue believes that lowering taxes creates prosperity, and that if taxes are low enough, then even lazy, stupid, ignorant people will be prosperous and not need welfare or food stamps.”
“I think I get it now,” Austin said. “How about some True-False questions?”
“An example of an easy True-False question on the test,” I suggested, “would be, ’True or False: The ends always justify the means, no matter what.’”
“True?” Austin murmured, perplexed.
“Definitely,” I confirmed. “You would always want a candidate with that world view to represent the Tea Party in Washington, because that’s how everybody operates here. Now, consider this one, ‘True or False: I would rather read a heartwarming bedtime story to a blind orphan than watch Mel Gibson kill terrorists in 3D while eating fresh, hot salted popcorn with real butter and drinking a frosty 48 ounce Coke.’”
Austin pondered for a while, then guessed, “False.”
“Very good,” I commented. “Anybody who really believes they would rather read a bedtime story to a blind orphan is the type of malignant narcissist who would sell out the Tea Party to the Democrats a New York minute after arriving on Capitol Hill. Next, let’s consider Fill-in-the-Blank type questions: ‘The Second Amendment to the US Constitution is…”
“…sacred?” Austin supposed.
“That’s not exactly the type of answer you would be looking for,” I assessed. “Something more along the lines of ‘…the reason Obama wants to confiscate all our guns,’ is what you want your candidate to say. Let’s try another one: ‘The phrase “global warming” is a problem because…’”
“…only European wimps and American hippies believe in it!” Austin proclaimed.
“Pretty close,” I conceded, “but the sort of answer you really want there is along the lines of, ‘…liberals think human beings are causing it.’ That shows your candidate can practice climate change denial with a pejorative spin, while conveniently excusing industry, power companies and the automobile sector from any responsibility, and that’s the ideal Tea Party approach.”
“These are great,” Austin assured me as he put away his Windows Phone, “how many of each do we need for a complete test?”
“About fifteen Multiple-Choice and ten each of the other two kinds,” I informed him. “I’ll prepare a complete test, with an answer key and guidance for interpretation of responses to the Fill-in-the-Blank items, and send it to you by next Friday.”
“All righty!” Austin agreed with a grin. “But what if, you know, the answers start gettin’ around?”
“You’ll need several versions of the test, of course,” I acknowledged, “in order to prevent cheating. Let’s deploy the first version, then refine the subsequent ones based on feedback and lessons learned.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Austin barked jovially at me as he strode across the Persian rug and seized my right hand in a vise-like grip. “Maybe with this, the Tea Party can finally get the right people up here in Washington on Capitol Hill!”