I’ve never cared for Sen. Lindsey Graham’s politics, but watching him on CNN Wednesday night, he was pretty likeable. Gallows humor can bring out the best in people, and Sen. Graham let loose one good line after another about the No Nothing Republican Party (nada did the Republicans gain from the government shutdown). Sadly, I can’t now recall the funny things he said about his own party’s role in the stand-off in Congress except for his response to someone who’d optimistically stated a few days earlier that there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel. “No, that’s the train coming towards us,” he replied.
Our long national melodrama over the budget and debt ceiling drew to a close on Wednesday. At least for a couple of months. Until we get to watch Congress negotiate once more over the government budget and debt ceiling in January and February. Entertaining though I found Sen. Graham on the subject of his fellow Republicans, I don’t think any of us look forward to seeing our Congress again provide so much black comedy at taxpayers’ expense.
There have been some bright moments amidst the recent political turmoil, however. Janet Yellen was nominated to head the Federal Reserve Board. A short woman with a big resume, she is by all accounts eminently qualified to chair the Federal Reserve. I’m not sure why President Obama was so keen to appoint Larry Summers to that position given that Summers was tainted by his role in supporting some of the policies that had produced the 2008 financial crisis and did not seem temperamentally suited to head a board that depends on consensus. (The former Treasury secretary and ex-president of Harvard is famously tactless and alienated most of the Harvard faculty by his high-handedness.) But President Obama seems to operate within something of an old boys club himself, and Larry Summers was in it and Yellen was not. With her selection as chair of the Federal Reserve, the last and probably most significant redoubt of the male Establishment has fallen. It comes 50 years (at least) after the women’s movement took off.
The selection of someone known for quiet competence rather than grandstanding theatrics has to be welcomed. One would wish there were more women like her in Congress. A lot more. I am not sure I believe that more women running the world would inevitably produce a better world, but it would probably produce a different world. In the case of Congress, it’s hard not to think that the presence of more women would not rebound for the good of the institution. The impasse over the budget these last three weeks seems to have been all about machismo: Who was going to blink first, the Republicans in the House or the President? In the case of the debt ceiling, not just the economy of the United States but the economic health of the world was held hostage to brinksmanship. Having brought government to a stand-still to demonstrate its opposition to Obamacare, the Tea Party then flirted with pushing it over a cliff. As a faction, it appears high on testosterone, low on brains.
A bipartisan group formed in the Senate to press for a compromise that would end the stand-off in Congress was initiated by three female senators. They and other women senators played such a key role that another member, Sen. John McCain, reportedly quipped, “The women are taking over.”
Hmm. Maybe they should.