Pelosi and company star in theater of the absurd

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 20, 2008

OK, this is getting out of control.

With two months to go, 2008 is already one of the weirdest years ever.

Take Mississippi State football.

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The Bulldogs have not, at least in my lifetime, been contenders on the national scene. Some years they break even or do a little better. And they are known for surprises — losing the “sure win” games (Maine, in 2004, when the Black Bears were ranked 16th in Division I-AA and hadn’t even played a division I-A team since 1991) and winning the “sure lose” games (Florida, in 2000, when the Gators had a 72-game win streak against unranked opponents).

‘To me, piling on nearly $1 trillion in new debt on a government already $9 trillion in the red would not have been something to celebrate.’

This fall State played Vanderbilt, normally a “sure win,” but this year a “sure lose” because the usually hapless Commodores were undefeated and nationally ranked.

So, in keeping with the out-of-kilter theme, State won.

Earlier in the year, it was flooding along the Mississippi River that got weirder day-by-day.

After I wrote a piece marveling at how precise the National Weather Service (usually) is in predicting crests, their revisions started. Over the next three or four weeks, it seemed the crest forecasts changed once or twice a day. Eventually the river topped out here, just below the 1973 record — but not before people who were assured they would remain dry got pretty wet.

No one else really cared, but there were many days of special session this summer during which members of the Mississippi Legislature confronted (or at least showed up for the paycheck) a $90 million Medicaid shortfall. It was a big story. Lots at stake. Lots of variables. Complex topic. Power politics. Drama.

Then, Gov. Haley Barbour up and announced there had been a clerical error in the previous administration’s reimbursement billing. The feds would pay up. No shortfall. Never mind.

The crowning weirdness, however, came earlier this month in Washington, D.C.

There, using a fist full of ceremonial pens, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was ebullient, grinning from ear-to-ear, as she signed off on the allocation of more than $800 billion (which the federal government doesn’t have) to pay off banks and other institutions for losing money making home loans to people (who didn’t have the ability to pay).

To me, piling on nearly $1 trillion in new debt on a government already $9 trillion in the red would not have been something to celebrate. To me, it would have been more appropriate to at least fake grave concern.

Not so for Pelosi. She was flanked by Rep. Barney Frank and a cadre of others, each of whom had a direct role in causing meltdown. The record is clear and uncontroverted going back 10 years. Hearings were even held at which Frank and Company blasted federal regulators for warning of the impending insolvency of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The government was helping people, the Democrats said, and regulators needed to back off. They did.

Perhaps this explains the unfettered joy.

But the weirdness of the situation — Democrats praising themselves for assisting a Republican president by providing cash requested to fight the crisis and getting away with it by claiming it was all his fault because Republicans don’t like regulations when those same people had not blocked enforcing standards as requested by both President Clinton and President Bush created a theater of the absurd.

Not even the Bulldogs can top that.

At least I hope not.