TIMOTHY NOAH NOVEMBER 20, 2011
On Friday I said we'd probably get a "ticktock" of how the super committee failed Thanksgiving weekend. I was off by five days. In Politico today Mike Allen has a rough-draft ticktock of how the super committee failed. This is testament, I guess, to Politico's slightly insane commitment to getting the news before it happens; to Allen's particular skill at doing so; and to the heretofore unacknowledged apparent reality that the super committee was pretty much destined to fail from the beginning.
Allen reports that two members--Rep. Jim Clyburn, D.-SC., and Xavier Becerra, D.-CA--"never really checked into the conversation, according to numerous participants on both sides. A Democrat explained: 'There's a basic threshold for our guys that any deal has to be better than what would happen with no deal. There were some folks who never really saw us get close to [that] threshold.'" A top GOP aide says that Rep. Chris Von Hollen, D.-MD, gave up three or four weeks ago. Sen. John Kerry, D.-MA, according to this aide, took the attitude, "'I'm so much smarter than you that I will, through sheer force of intellect, be able to convince you to accept something that you already said "no” to.’ He would try to drudge up old ideas that had already been rejected: ‘If you will just let me talk to you for an hour, you will see the wisdom of my way.’" Sen. Max Baucus, the Republican aide says, "would say things that made you think, ‘OK, we can work with this guy.’ And then he would go back to his office and either talk to somebody, or get yanked back, and then he would come back and would start from ground zero again." All of this sounds highly plausible.
The Washington Post reports that the committee is "poised to admit defeat as soon as Monday," which must make it feel pretty silly because that stupid doomsday clock that continues to haunt its homepage isn't scheduled to reach the Zero Hour for another three days, 11 hours, 52 minutes, and 12 seconds. If a doomsday clock goes off and everybody's already gone over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, does it make a sound? A Zen riddle to chew with your turkey and stuffing.
Politico's Allen goes through the motions of saying how terrible it is that the super committee failed--"the markets and the country will hate it"--but I wonder whether even he believes that. The stock market dipped last week, ostensibly in reaction to both the bad news in Europe and the failure of the super committee, but I continue to doubt that the super committee can have had much to do with it, and I predict the fallout this coming week will be slim to none. As for myself, this Thanksgiving I will be thankful that the Democrats didn't agree to believe that $2-$3 trillion in tax cuts is really a $300 billion tax increase. Lets raise a glass to toast this rare victory for the reality-based community.
Incidentally, for those unfamiliar with the term "ticktock," it's journalism jargon for a second-by-second narrative of a recent event (or, in this case, non-event). I parodied the form 11 years ago here, but it can be useful, and I will read more detailed ticktocks of how the super committee failed with interest.