Thursday, January 31, 2013

Is Hagel Smart Enough?

The vexing question about Obama’s nominee for Defense Secretary is not his political beliefs, history or sincerity but one that dares not speak its name directly: Does he have the intellect to manage a complex, critical enterprise in a time of change?

As John McCain and others attack while bipartisan figures from the past endorse him, Chuck Hagel calls to mind JFK’s dictum, “You can’t beat brains,” along with David Halberstam’s classic “The Best and the Brightest,” the story of how brilliant Defense Secretary Robert McNamara led a coterie of Ivy League high IQs into bungling the Vietnam war, in which Hagel served as a twice-wound enlisted man.

For his early opposition to the Iraq invasion, the nominee earns high points, and it’s hard to doubt the personal qualities of one who has earned the scorn of fellow Republicans for being right about that disastrous chapter. But does he qualify to oversee a crucial organization?

With the departure of Hillary Clinton and Leon Panetta, the braininess level of the Obama administration has gone down. John Kerry is bright enough, but those who recall what Karl Rove et al did to him in 2004 would not credit him with political genius. What the President needs in his second term is a cadre of key advisers who won’t bungle him into extraneous side issues. How do Kerry and Hagel rate on that score?

As confirmation grilling continues, the fair-minded should be less interested in Chuck Hagel’s views on the Iraq Surge, Israel or gays in the military, but the quality of mind he would bring to the Department of Defense, the subtlety of understanding to deal with a labyrinth of high-stakes conflict in the armed forces and those who profit from it.  

To put it bluntly, is Hagel smart enough for the job?
Acumen counts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Smoking Guns

As politicians in Washington slow-dance to the Second Amendment, elsewhere in American culture a different music about gun control is being heard.

On the Daily Show, sportscaster Bob Costas tells Jon Stewart about the uproar over his mild comments linking gun use to football violence, while a New York Times business columnist fills his space with 15 shooting death reports across the country in the past week.

The struggle over the lethal effects of a legal product is beginning to resemble a decades-long effort to make millions aware of cigarette dangers and suggest the way forward may lie less in sweeping legislation than in small steps to curtail its use and, most important, heighten public awareness of the dangers.

Just as tobacco lobbyists forestalled legislative action against smoking for decades, the firearms makers’ creatures of the NRA have the financial and electoral clout to limit sweeping gun reform. Meanwhile, local smoking bans were being met at first with outrage but slowly gained public acceptance as evidence of their efficacy accumulated.

By all means, Congress should push the efforts of Joe Biden and even more so those of Dianne Feinstein, but as they are being slowed by silly side shows such as whether the President is an avid skeet shooter, the long-term return to sanity about American guns may parallel the cigarette story.

Talk about smoking guns...

Monday, January 28, 2013

How Liberal Will Obama II Be?

Barack Obama’s second term begins with a dirty word.
The New York Times reports his Inaugural Speech with a banner headline, “Obama Offers Liberal Vision,” and a new generation encounters the adjective for the first time without a pejorative like “elite” attached.

GOP wannabes get into the act. Bobby Jindal blurts, “We must not be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys,” even as he pushes to replace Louisiana’s income tax with a sales tax to squeeze the poor.

Paul Ryan complains the Inaugural proves the President is “not looking to move to the middle. He’s looking to go farther to the left.”

Rhetoric aside, how liberal can America be in coming years? How much can it recover from as far back as 2004 when the extreme right was beating drums about a “tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New-York-Times-reading...body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show?”

Most casual observers are unaware that, from FDR on, “liberal” was a label for those trying to turn an American plutocracy into an inclusive democracy by eliminating racial, ethnic and gender bias and by creating social safety nets for society’s most vulnerable from children to the aged.

As Obama II begins, with the body politic turning away from the political cliff of a Romney victory, the rehabilitation of “liberal” is looking like weak tea.

Joe Biden’s anti-gun crusade starts by blowing kisses to the Second Amendment and setting its sights low while only Dianne Feinstein and a few Democrats without Oval Office dreams push for real change.

A “bi-partisan” start on immigration reform is hobbled with Marco Rubio booby traps.

What we get in coming months may be minor changes for the better, but it will bear little resemblance to the dictionary definitions of “liberal:”

“a. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.

"b. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tea Party Pygmies Roast Clinton

On a day that Congressional Democrats pushed to expand legal protections for women against violence, Tea Party members were abusing the most admired woman in America.

Hillary Clinton’s day-long grilling on Benghazi was a weird composite of farewell testimonials by her own party members and hostile Comedy Central roast by Republican pygmies.

After blocking the nomination of Susan Rice as her successor, John McCain and his cronies at one point reduced Clinton to tears with their carping, only to be outdone by Colorado Sen. Ron Johnson who kept badgering the Secretary of State as she raised her voice:

"With all due respect, the fact is we had four dead Americans," she said, raising her voice at Johnson, who continued to interrupt her. "Was it because of a protest or was it because of guys out for a walk last night who decided to kill some Americans? What difference at this point does it make? It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again, Senator."

Johnson capped the day by accusing Clinton of “theatrics,” telling a reporter afterward that “she just decided before she was going to describe emotionally the four dead Americans, the heroes, and use that as her trump card to get out of the questions.”

Rand Paul harrumphed that as President he would have “fired” Clinton for her Benghazi failure which, in view of today’s approval ratings, may have been the sickest joke of all.

For sane observers, her day in the dock was a masterful demonstration of command, competence and deftness in deflecting attacks on what started out to be an election ploy against Obama last fall and has morphed into a preemptive strike against a possible Clinton candidacy in 2016.

In other news, the Pentagon announced that it was lifting the ban on women in combat. Hillary Clinton spent the day demonstrating that at least one of them was up for anything that hostile forces can aim their way.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Swearing In Mitt Romney

For the aged, waking up every morning comes as a gift. Today has a ribbon on it.

The TV screen is a flood of flags, bunting, crowds, Inaugural stands, Lincoln Bibles and all the other patriotic paraphernalia of the day. Best of all is the realization that it is not Mitt Romney who will be sworn into the Oval Office.

After a year of haunting fear that in my final years the country might be run by meanness and insensitivity, it’s reassuring beyond belief that it is Barack Obama who is taking the oath again.

On my ninth birthday, March 4. 1933, Franklin Roosevelt was inaugurated for the first time. I experienced that from a grainy newspaper photograph.

Amid today’s wall-to-wall coverage on CNN etc. all the words and images will reinforce the hope that somehow in some ways the next four years will be better than the last.

As I leave my room for breakfast, I see the sign on my teen-age granddaughter’s door across the hall: “Happiness is not a goal; it is a byproduct. –Eleanor Roosevelt.”

Amen to that. Especially today. 

Update: Romney, who had so many plans for Day One, spent it in sunny California, confirming what many Obama voters suspected when casting their ballots.

An aide says it was “doubtful” he would watch the Inauguration on TV, confirming what one of his sons confided to a reporter last month, “He wanted to be president less than anyone I’ve met in my life. He is a very private person who loves his family deeply and wants to be with them, but he has deep faith in God and he loves his country, but he doesn’t love the attention.”

He should have sent the President a thank-you card.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Martin Luther King's Old Age

If he were alive, the man whose birthday we celebrate tomorrow would be 84, heavy with the years denied him by a bullet at age 39.

What is the moral worth of that lost time for generations of Americans who were deprived of Martin Luther King Jr. walking the earth and working for a just and nonviolent world?

If he were here, what would he be thinking and saying about the Inaugural of a re-elected African-American president amid raging debates about gun rights and the fiscal costs of ministering to the poor? Would he still be as inspired as he was that night before his death in 1968?

“Like anybody,” Dr. King told followers in Memphis, “I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”

Of the many gifts he bestowed on America, the most undervalued may be hope, an unyielding optimism transcending the kind of bitterness and hate that divides people and would eventually take his own life.

“The reports are that they are out to get me,” he told his parents before Memphis. “I have to go on with my work, I’m too deeply involved now to get out, it’s all too important. Sometimes I want to stop. Just go away somewhere and have some quiet days, finally, a quiet life with Coretta and the children. But it’s too late for that now. I have my path before me. I know what I have to do.”

That kind of selfless dedication is an invitation to see Dr. King as a saintly martyr, but he was also a mortal man with human failings that led J. Edgar Hoover to bug his hotel rooms and have anonymous letters sent urging him to commit suicide.

In Hoover's files were angry scrawls on press clippings. On Dr. King receiving the St. Francis peace medal from the Catholic Church, he wrote "this is disgusting." About the Nobel Prize: "King could well qualify for the 'top alley cat' prize!"

During his last years, despite gratitude to LBJ for pushing through a landmark Civil Rights law, Dr. King had turned against the Vietnam War and was actively opposing it, much to the President’s displeasure. His focus remained on faith, not politics.

In his eighties, Martin Luther King surely would be transcending all of today’s discord and reminding Americans of the nonviolent ethos that brought him national attention during the 1955 Montgomery, Alabama bus strike:

“If we are arrested every day, if we are exploited every day, if we are trampled over every day, don’t ever let anyone pull you so low as to hate him. We must use the weapon of love.”

In the Inaugural Address, Barack Obama will surely cite his debt to Dr. King and pay his legacy rhetorical homage, but he would be well-advised to remember as well the qualities of a man who endured beatings, jail and vilification for his beliefs without flinching from his faith.

Love Boehner, the Tea Party and the NRA if you can, Mr. President, but in opposing them don’t back down from as much of the gritty spirit of Martin Luther King as you can muster.

If he were still alive, he might be sitting behind you as you take the oath but on another weekend standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial making another “I Have a Dream” speech to remind Americans, “Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Geometry of Gun Murder

John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, John Lennon.

Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown.

From the past century to this, the geometry of killing strangers in public places has morphed from victimizing famous individuals to unknown crowds as the technology for wanton murder has proliferated.    

This week, the sight of a president pleading for small changes in laws that make slaughterhouses out of schools, churches and shopping centers is sickening evidence of a Second Amendment insanity gripping America since one Supreme Court Justice handed gun owners a license to kill five years ago.

The Constitutional Amendment reads: “A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

From 1939 until the Court’s 5-4 decision in June 2008, the prevailing legal view held that the Amendment did not confer on individuals the right to own weapons of mass murder.

The 2008 reversal was voiced by Justice Antonin Scalia, appointed by Ronald Reagan, who ironically was himself the victim of a deranged shooter early in his presidency, holding that it granted a right to “law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms in defense of hearth and home.”

Yet even that change was softened by Scalia’s warning: “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

Since then, abetted by NRA blackmail of lawmakers, the perversion of the Second Amendment has reached the point where even Barack Obama, in issuing his executive orders and pleading with Congress for small changes in gun restrictions, prefaces his plea by acknowledging Second Amendment “rights.”

At what point does mass insanity start to change? How many more men, women and children will have to lose their lives in split seconds before the madness of those who govern our lives stops matching that of those who use weapons of war in settings that once were safe and secure?

As the President is attacked for overreaching with his modest attempts to reverse the prevailing irrationality, where is the outrage of those who not only approve his efforts but want him to go much further? Who will push him to save the lives of those who don't yet vote and never may unless the gun lovers lose?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Biblical Obama: Lincoln to Dr. King

“The arc of the moral universe is long,” Martin Luther King said in 1965, “but it bends toward justice."

On January 21, the federal holiday commemorating the slain civil rights leader’s birthday, Barack Obama will take his second oath as President of the United States on a Bible of Dr. King’s as well as one owned by Abraham Lincoln, which was used in 2009 for his first swearing-in.

The day before, the President will be inducted at the White House on a Holy Book that once belonged to Michelle Obama’s grandmother, the first African-American woman to manage a Moody’s Bible Institute bookstore.

If all this Biblical swearing seems excessive, it can be understood as a reminder to put into historical perspective the unholy mess in Washington surrounding the start of an African-American’s second term in office.

Solemnity is in short supply as an unruly Congress threatens to keep disrupting government in order to delegitimize him and balks at doing anything to rein in the guns that have killed so many Americans from Dr. King to the children in Newtown.

With the American moral universe bending so far toward injustice these days, any reminders of our historic faith, good sense and optimism should be welcome.

So swear away, Mr. President, and shame the devils in DC.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Silver Bullets for Gun Control

It takes a split second and pennies to end a life but hours of surgery and months of rehab, often hundreds of thousands of dollars to save someone struck by a bullet.

Gabrielle Giffords, living proof of this lopsided human cost accounting, visited Newtown this week with her husband former astronaut Mark Kelly to rally support for efforts to prevent future gun violence

In a USA Today OpEd, they write, “We don’t want to take away your guns any more than we want to give up the two guns we have locked in a safe at home. What we do want is what the majority of NRA members and other Americans want: responsible changes in our laws to require responsible gun ownership and reduce gun violence.”

As Joe Biden’s task force meets with anti-gun groups today and prepares to confront NRA lobbyists tomorrow, prospects are dim for meaningful political action anytime soon, barring any unlikely unilateral executive action.

Such a sad outlook recalls a proposal by the late Sen.Pat Moynihan two decades ago. The scholarly sociologist suggested that, since the nation is flooded with guns that will “last forever,” lawmakers concentrate on bullets instead.

“We have only a three-year supply of ammunition,” he observed, proposing a tax, not on bullets for hunting or target shooting, but those designed to penetrate armor and cause unspeakable damage to human bodies.

“Ten thousand percent,” he suggested to make a 20-cartridge pack cost $1,500. “Guns don’t kill people, bullets do.”

Since then, in Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine,” Chris Rock has raised the ante: “If a bullet costs $5,000, there’d be no more innocent bystanders.”

Ludicrous? Perhaps, no but more off-the-wall than NRA proposals to make OK Corral armed camps out of the nation’s schools.

There won’t be any political silver bullet soon for preventing the slaughter of innocents, but making it more expensive for madmen to take so many lives so easily and cheaply might be a start.

The Poetry of Loss

On Thanksgiving Day, I suddenly realized it was also November 22, the anniversary of JFK’s assassination.

Missing from the family table and in the hospital was Harvey Shapiro, whose son is married to my daughter-in-law’s sister, a man of my own age who also fought in World War II and spent his working life as a teacher and editor, most notably for prompting Martin Luther King to write his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.”

Now Harvey Shapiro is being laid to rest amid eulogies that also recognize him as one of the finest poets of his generation.

Half a century ago as elegists around the world were pouring out their shock and grief over Kennedy’s killing, he wrote one of the finest poems of all, “The National Cold Storage Company.

Today it summons up deep feeling about what my generation felt then and what we miss now as our human losses mount:

The National Cold Storage Company contains

More things than you can dream of.

Hard by the Brooklyn Bridge it stands

In a litter of freight cars,

Tugs to one side; the other, the traffic

Of the Long Island Expressway.

I myself have dropped into it in seven years

Midnight tossings, plans for escape, the shakes.

Add this to the national total--

Grant's tomb, the Civil War, Arlington,

The young President dead.

Above the warehouse and beneath the stars

The poets creep on the harp of the Bridge.

But see,

They fall into the National Cold Storage Company

One by one. The wind off the river is too cold,

Or the times too rough, or the Bridge

Is not a harp at all. Or maybe

A monstrous birth inside the warehouse

Must be fed by everything--ships, poems,

Stars, all the years of our lives.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Why the Hagel Hassle Won't Work

The campaign to embarrass the President over his Defense nomination is weighed down by GOP history. How can a party that erased George W. Bush from its 2012 campaign re-litigate his foreign policy legacy to bring down Chuck Hagel?

After Obama’s deft introduction yesterday, the battle lines are clear. With Republican military-diplomatic heavyweights like Robert Gates, Colin Powell and Brent Scowcroft lining up to endorse him, what’s left in the anti-Hagel camp are Tea Party diehards and the ancient grudges of John McCain.

After his puppet Lindsey Graham’s attack on Hagel as an “in your face” move, McCain himself is lying back in the rhetorical tall weeds.

“Chuck Hagel served our nation with honor in Vietnam and I congratulate him on this nomination,” his former friend says. “I have serious concerns about positions Senator Hagel has taken on a range of critical national security issues in recent years, which we will fully consider in the course of his confirmation process before the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

While Hagel himself reaffirms his "unequivocal, total support for Israel" and endorsement of tough economic sanctions against Iran while apologizing for an insensitive anti-gay comment, critics are left with the acrobatic task of indicting him for his growing opposition to Bush’s Iraq folly after voting to authorize it in 2002 along with fellow Republicans.

Not many Democrats are likely to be lured into opposing his designation in the face of the President’s argument that Hagel will bring the hard-headed viewpoint of a former non-commissioned officer into the brass-heavy halls of the Pentagon.

Barack Obama wants him as Secretary of Defense and, barring any other adverse revelations, will get him.

Monday, January 07, 2013

McCain's Long War on Hagel

Unseen in the cloud of preemptive dust over the nomination for Secretary of Defense is more than a decade of fallout from a friendship with John McCain that broke apart into bitterness.

Chuck Hagel had supported the fellow Vietnam veteran’s run for president in 2000 but then angered his Senate colleague to the point that McCain, moving to the Neo-Con Right, approvingly posted on his own web site a Los Angeles Times article of March 3, 2001 (months before 9/11) headlined “On Iraq, GOP Split Over Gaining World Respect or Enforcing It.”

It read: “Hagel has repeatedly warned that the United States must disarm Iraq in a way that reinforces international alliances...McCain has become the champion of the hard-line neoconservative thinkers who want to move quickly against Iraq, no matter how many countries agree...

“In all, while Hagel argues that broadening international cooperation is the key to security in this new era, McCain believes ‘credibility’ in delivering military force is the top priority. The one is focused on winning respect, the other believes in enforcing it.”

A year and a half later, as the Bush Administration prepared to invade Iraq, Hagel called Chief of Staff Andy Card to ask why the President would consider going to war “without Congress being with him?” As a result, Hagel later revealed, “a few of us--Joe Biden, Dick Lugar, and I--were invited to discussions with the White House...

“Finally, begrudgingly, they sent over a resolution for Congress to approve. Well, it was astounding. It said they could go anywhere in the region...Sure as hell it was clear they meant the whole Middle East. It was anything they wanted.”

Hagel, Biden and Lugar “had to rewrite it...stripped the language the White House had set up and put our language in it.” That was what Congress approved.

More than a decade later, GOP elephants who never forget are piling on Hagel for his party sin of being a premature opponent of Bush’s war, which later morphed into McCain’s.

Whatever the merits of side issues such as a Hagel remark about Israel and another about gays, a serious Senate confirmation process will have to take account of his courage and tenacity over Iraq that proved to be as right as McCain was wrong.

Barack Obama was in the Senate then too and observed Hagel’s qualities up close. His action today bears witness to what he saw and why he wants McCain's nemesis with him as his second term starts. 

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Upside-Down Government by Losers

Sunday morning TV is like looking through the wrong end of a telescope: Diminutive figures jockey for attention while bloviating about big issues.

Mitch McConnell, with his thinned-out Senate minority, trumpets that raising taxes “is finished. Over. Completed. That’s behind us.”

After demolishing Susan Rice, John McCain’s Amigo Lindsey Graham zeroes in on Chuck Hagel’s possible nomination as Secretary of Defense, branding it an “in your face selection.”

Despite public outcry for gun control after Newtown, GOP lawmakers show up to defend NRA crazy talk about armed schools.

Call it Government by Losers, the relentless effort of a minority beaten at the ballot box to dictate the national agenda to a decisively reelected President with continuing wall-to-wall intransigence on everything.

Parsing this kind of Tea Party persistence would be redundant, but both the President and the media must reassess their roles in keeping alive such false equivalence in debating the American future.

As the second term starts, Barack Obama has to wrestle with his “reasonable” nature in the face of irrationality that hobbled his first four years and find ways to move ahead unilaterally when possible or to rally voters full-throatedly when necessary (as he learned after the first Romney debate).

The media with its mandate of objectivity and fairness has even harder choices. Aside from the blatant one-sidedness of Fox and MSNBC, is it enough to seek false balance with mindless GOP talking points to offset intelligent analysis?

At what point does equal treatment of flat-earth proponents become pandering to them?

It’s of small comfort to see Simpson and Bowles in cameo appearances while partisan hacks dominate TV screens. If journalists are going to be branded a liberal media elite no matter what they do, isn’t it time that some start earning that mindless contempt by recognizing their own role in skewing public opinion to the advantage of their attackers?

If crazy keeps getting equal time, we are all headed in that direction.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Tea Party's Joe McCarthy Moment

“At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

In 1954, an aging lawyer named Joseph Welch asked that question of Sen. Joe McCarthy and brought to its end an era of bizarre intimidation of Congress and the nation.

Now, after lawmakers’ lame-duck failure to provide relief for Hurricane Sandy victims, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie rises up to lead a chorus of Northeast office holders to ask the question of John Boehner and his Tea Party hostage-takers.

The money will be forthcoming in the new Congress, but that moment of callous disregard may not be easily forgotten. Passing a fiscal cliff bill larded with pork, the House failed to act on the distress of Americans uprooted by the October storm. Millions were handed out to race tracks, imported rum makers and coal-mining on Indian lands, but not a cent to those who had lost their homes.

“There's only one group to blame for the continued suffering of these innocent victims, the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner,” Christie roared. “Do your job and come through for the people of this country.”

Politically, the GOP is almost comatose in the Atlantic states but two years from now other voters will certainly be reminded by Democrats of the Tea Party’s priorities on the subject of innocent suffering and money.

Now on the eve of Barack Obama's re-inauguration, somewhere in demagogue slayer’s heaven Joe Welch must be smiling. 

Update: The Club for Growth promises to punish House members who voted Thursday to add $9.7-billion to the National Flood Insurance Program in a belated bipartisan 354-67 gesture.
Time for all Neanderthals to come to the aid of their party.  

Thursday, January 03, 2013

"Titanic" Skipper Wins, Icebergs Get 9 Votes

John Boehner was reelected today as Speaker of the House, second in line of succession to the presidency, with only a ripple of disaffection from Tea Party Republicans, nine of whom voted against him in favor of Eric Cantor, Allen West and other loony tunes.

The new Congress starts with confirmation of the Captain that almost sank the Ship of State last weekend, with a few members of his crew expressing more confidence in icebergs.

Far away from frozen DC, the President is golfing in Hawaii after signing the fiscal bill with an autopen and promising to do more about reducing the national debt “in a balanced way that doesn’t put all the burden on seniors or students or middle-class families.”

That should give voters a warm and cozy feeling for the start of 2013 until they realize that he is promising to do so in concert with pretty much the same Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight over the past two years, described thus by astute observer Ezra Klein:

“Unfortunately, the polarization and paralysis exhibited by the 112th Congress are functions of long-term political trends, and there’s no evidence that they’ll lift anytime soon. So while the 112th Congress was surely one of the most broken and incompetent in our history, the worst is probably yet to come.”

Check the life rafts.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Year's Night Football in DC

The Capital Bowl ends in overtime with John Boehner being sacked in his own end zone as Tea Party teammates led by Eric Cantor scramble away from him still praying for a Hail Mary pass.

The metaphor comes with apologies for comparing the high skill level of college amateur football with what went on in Washington this weekend. The play in the Capitol was more like a series of sandlot scrimmages. Some would say sandbox.

As stock markets rise in relief like anxious parents to see the battered kids still on the cliff, rage and recrimination dominate Wednesday morning quarterbacking.

Northeast House Republicans join Democratic colleagues in hammering Boehner for not voting on Hurricane Sandy relief while passing a bill laden with pork for auto-racing tracks, imported rum and coal-mining on Indian lands.

The GOP grouses about the cost of the President’s trip to Hawaii for the rest of his family vacation without acknowledging that it was their fault he had no one to kiss at midnight New Year’s Eve except Joe Biden.

The Veep himself emerges as the only hero of the fiasco by cozying his former Senate friend Mitch McConnell into allowing the vote that broke the stalemate there.

Otherwise, there is no joy in DC’s Mudville as both home teams disgraced themselves in the holiday sport.

One of the few Democrats who didn’t vote for the Senate bill, Colorado’s Michael Bennet, put it best:

“Washington politics no longer follows the example of our parents and our grandparents who saw as their first job creating more opportunity, not less, for the people who came after. My mother’s parents were refugees from Warsaw who came here after World War II because they could rebuild their shattered lives. But the political debate now is a zero-sum game that creates more problems than solutions.”

The ugly game is over in DC, at least for a few weeks, but unless something changes, it will be played over and over again in the new year.