Feb 172013

Dumfry and Dean are identical twins.  When they were but six weeks old, their mother died in an automobile accident where the car she was riding in was hit from behind by a large truck, causing her to be thrown out through the windshield from the front passenger seat and subsequently run over by passing police cruiser, which was unable to stop in time as it skidded on the wet pavement.  Their father had passed away from lung cancer only months before.  That was in the days before seat belts, anti-lock brakes and surgeon generals warnings on cigarette packs, and the brothers are middle-aged professionals now. 
They were separated at that tender age, however, and put up for adoption.  Dumfry grew up with a highly conservative family in Charleston, South Carolina.  His adoptive father was a descendant of a Citadel cadet who had been among the first to fire on Union troops in the Civil War, repulsing an attempt to resupply Fort Sumter in January of 1861.  His adoptive mother was a member of the United Daughters of the Confederacy.  The family owned a rice planation, a fishing fleet and a textile mill.  Both husband and wife were active in the South Carolina presidential campaign organizations for Strom Thurmond, Barry Goldwater and George Wallace.
Dean, on the other hand, was raised by a gay man and a lesbian in San Francisco – they had gotten married, the arrangement being a beard for their true natures.  This was common among homosexuals back in the day, and they adopted Dean to complete the picture of them as a straight couple with a child.  He was a labor activist and a poet, she was an abstract artist and feminist organizer.  Both were deeply involved in the early environmental movement.  They operated a book store in the Castro district where, while none of the works sold was pornographic, the specialty was a wide range of exotic and highly sophisticated erotic literature.  Alan Ginsberg and his associates visited them occasionally.  
I know all this about Dumfry and Dean because they told me.  They are both my clients.  They work for the Republican and Democratic National Committees, respectively, where they are highly respected policy wonks of the first water.
Yes, as so many studies and so much research as demonstrated, identical twins separated at birth or thereabouts tend to end up later on expressing the same talents, having the same interests and choosing the same line of work, no matter who raises them.
Neither of them was aware of the other’s existence or whereabouts, however, until they each engaged my services as a consultant about a year ago.  Gretchen managed to get their appointments confused because, as I mentioned, they are identical twins.  After putting two and two together, as it were, I introduced them to each other and interviewed both of them for a few minutes, determining a number of things about them that piqued their curiosity.  As it happens, for example, each fellow’s birthday is February 14 – Valentine’s Day.  They are also both left handed, completely tone deaf, allergic to cat dander, find Impressionist art silly, vapid and pretentious, independently decided to join the Presbyterian church without any prior attendance by their adoptive families, drive bright yellow convertible Mercedes Benz coupes, adore strong licorice and cannot abide the taste of cilantro.  An extensive laundry list of other such remarkable coincidences prompted them to hire private investigators, forensic genealogists and DNA analysis laboratories to establish, as of last September and with absolute certainty, that they are indeed identical twin brothers.
And to celebrate having made this discovery, they decided to get together each Valentine’s Day for dinner, which this year, the first of such, was to be enjoyed last Thursday at the Willard Hotel.  Before that, however, I found them in the Round Robin Bar, engaged in a such a heated argument, their eventual mutual participation in a meal that evening seemed a decidedly problematic proposition.
“It’s total insanity,” Dean barked over his Galliano.  “Just as the economy is finally recovering, you want to kick it to the curb!”
“Insanity?” Dumfry shot back, gesticulating for emphasis with his glass of Ouzo.  “If it’s insanity, then it’s your man, Barack Obama, who’s the lunatic responsible for it!”
“How can you possibly make a statement like that?” Dean tartly demanded.
“Because the sequester came straight out of the Oval Office!” Dumfry confidently declared.
“Complete fantasy!” Dean insisted.  “That’s what you’re talking now!  The sequester came out of the Republican controlled House of Representatives, and you know it!”
“Road apples!” Dumfry snapped.  “The whole thing was Jack Lew’s idea!  And besides, if your Democrat controlled Senate would pass a budget – which they haven’t managed to do for three solid years – there wouldn’t be any sequester!”
“If the Senate Republicans didn’t threaten to filibuster every budget bill Harry Reid brings to the floor,” Dean objected, “the United States of America would have had a budget every single one of those years.  You guys obstruct progress and then whine that it’s our fault when the country starts approaching a train wreck!
“You can’t expect Republican senators to go against their principles and vote for a budget that forces Uncle Sam to borrow money from the Chinese to fund runaway Democrat spending on frivolous nonsense like National Public Radio and socialist government employment programs,” Dumfry countered.  “There’s been four years of stimulus for this economy and we say enough’s enough!”
“Exactly what the Republicans said after the first four years of the New Deal,” Dean pointed out.  “They got their way then, and look what happened – as soon as FDR let up on the Keynesian pump-priming, the economy went back into recession again.  Right, Tom?”
“That’s certainly the liberal Democrat interpretation of events,” I agreed as I made myself comfortable at their cocktail table.  “But I’m sure Dumfry here was about to say that none of Roosevelt’s federal spending initiatives did doodly-squat for the American economy in the nineteen thirties, and it wasn’t until World War II provided full employment again that the economy actually recovered.”
“You took the words,” Dumfry confirmed, “right out of my mouth, Tom.  If we don’t rein in public spending right away, there isn’t going to be any American economy to save.”
“The last thing we should do in a recession,” Dean insisted, “is cut government spending!”
“The last thing we should do in a recession,” Dumfry parried, “is raise taxes!”
“Okay, fine,” Dean earnestly replied, “I’m all for reinstating the Bush income tax cuts for everybody earning less than a million dollars a year and increasing government spending for jobs improving our crumbling infrastructure, training young people for the STEM jobs of the future and…”
“Putting the country in hock up to its ears for the next century!” Dumfry roared.  “That’s what you’re really proposing!”
“Not if we cut back on uncontrolled and needless defense spending,” Dean growled.  “But this war monger here…”
“Defending freedom,” Dumfry interrupted, “is not war mongering!”
“Oh, come on,” Dean sneered.  “Does America really have keep on being the world’s policeman, while children in our inner cities go to bed hungry?  Can’t we at least cut the programs that even the Pentagon doesn’t want, like tank construction?”
“I thought,” Dumfry needled in a sarcastic tone, “you Democrats were in favor of jobs, but I guess jobs making tanks don’t count, huh?”
“Get real, okay?  Our military doesn’t need any more tanks,” Dean sighed, rolling his eyes.  “We’ve got thousands of them mothballed in the Nevada desert already.  How about we take half the money we’re spending on tanks and spend it on manufacturing drones instead?  The military actually needs more drones, you know.”
“But the workers who build tanks don’t know how to make drones,” Dumfry spat out contemptuously.  “You’re proposing to throw them out on the street!”
“Okay,” Dean shrugged, “so the tank workers get job training to make drones.”
“And how are those tank workers supposed to pay for that training?” Dumfry challenged.
“They shouldn’t have to,” Dean dryly asserted.  “The government should pay for it.”
“And there you go again!” Dumfry mocked.  “Another socialist government spending program!  Where will it end?  Will you Democrats ever learn?”
“There are plenty of things,” Dean argued, “that the federal government has a proper role in funding, and if job training to make weapons for the Defense Department doesn’t appeal to you, I’d say that’s pretty hypocritical position for a Republican.”
“You’re talking,” Dumfry sniped, “about job training to make drones at a factory located in some Democrat’s congressional district, while the tank factory in a Republican’s district gets shut down.  That’s the kind of double-dealing you Democrats are famous for.”
“I don’t know about that,” Dean jabbed, “but I do know that what you Republicans have become famous for is holding the federal government hostage.”
“Hostage?” Dumfry’s eyebrows shot up.  “What the hell are you talking about?”
“First,” Dean explained, “in 2011, the Republican majority in the House held federal government spending hostage by refusing to raise the debt ceiling.  So we Democrats agreed that in return for a deal to keep the federal government funded, everybody… and that means you, Republicans, as well as us Democrats… was supposed to take a couple of years to work out solutions to spending reform, tax reform and a road map to a balanced federal budget.  And to make sure everybody was dealing with the situation honestly, if that didn’t happen in a timely manner, then boom – the hammer comes down – there’s a sequester and federal government spending is cut across the board, everywhere, defense and civilian sectors alike, by an equal percentage – nearly indiscriminate cuts, too, and they happen to everyone – everybody’s ox gets gored, bar none.  In short, it’s the bluntest instrument ever devised by the human mind.”
“And probably not the most formidable concept to come out of the federal government, either,” I opined.
“No, it isn’t,” Dean concurred.  “In fact, it’s an incredibly stupid idea.  That’s why everybody agreed on it.”
“Think for a moment about what you just said,” I suggested.
“I know what I just said,” Dean confidently affirmed.  “That was the whole point – the sheer, utter, stupendous stupidity of sequestration was supposed to be the thing that exerted the ultimate leverage to break up the log jam in Washington.  But instead, the Republicans did all they could to defeat every Democratic proposal offered to them, not only through the last election, but afterward!  And now that the sequestration date is two weeks away, what do they do?  Do they finally decide it’s time to compromise?  No – now, not only do they say they don’t care if the sequestration happens, they start insisting that the sequestration cuts aren’t big enough!”
“They’re not!” Dumfry interjected.  “The cuts need to be much deeper – and national defense has to be completely excepted!”
“So,” Dean jabbed, “you Republicans, your big business buddies and their lobbyists can gut the EPA, HUD, Health and Human Services, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the…”
“None of those Big Brother Nanny State agencies should have existed in the first place!” Dumfry shouted, pounding the table for emphasis.  “Mollycoddling tree huggers, subsidizing welfare queens, providing free housing for parasites who breed like rats at the taxpayers’ expense, forcing local school boards to teach sex education to third graders, manipulating free markets in coal, oil and natural gas, dictating manufacturing practices to American firms and running atomic power off of the US electricity grid are not, and never will be legitimate functions of the federal government!”
“That’s not what the sequestration deal was about!” Dean yelled back.
“Oh yeah?” Dumfry challenged.  “Maybe you Democrats thought sequestration was something so ridiculous, moronic and absurd that nobody would ever contemplate doing it, but guess what – you were wrong, because we Republicans have the guts to do what it takes, no matter how idiotic it is, in order to protect the essential principles of freedom!” 
“Gentlemen,” our waiter discreetly murmured, “could you please moderate the tone of this conversation?  You are being overheard, and it’s frightening the tourists.”
An awkward silence fell over the table as the brothers blushed bright crimson.
“The irony of the nation’s current pickle,” I observed, “is that there’s nothing in our Constitution about the debt ceiling – Congress passed a law creating one and thereby also created the opportunity to place the full faith and credit of the United States in jeopardy.  Then, lo and behold, Congress decided to do exactly that.  And, in turn, Congress came up with sequestration as a way to avoid having America default on its debts.  But the cure, it seems, is potentially as fatal as the disease.  The bottom line, gentlemen, is that Uncle Sam’s debt ceiling crisis and his sequestration crisis are both self-inflicted wounds.  Have either of you ever considered how all this must appear to people in civilized countries?”  
“What are you talking about?” Dumfry rasped in a loud whisper.   “America is a civilized country!”
“No it isn’t,” I clarified, as I glanced at my watch.  “The United States of America went directly from barbarism to decadence with no period of civilization in between.  Um… excuse me, but I have to meet my friend Cerise in fifteen minutes to attend a performance by Miguel Jontel Pimentel at the Warner Theater.  Look, guys, here’s the way I see it – if you two can quit your partisan bickering, overcome your differences, recognize the profound commonality you both share, honor your reservation in the dining room here at the Willard and have that dinner celebrating our brotherhood, well, that might just be what Washington, America, and, frankly, the entire world need at the moment.  Now tell me, gentlemen, can do it?”
The twins turned and gazed at each other for a moment.
“I think I’ve lost my appetite,” they both said in unison.