Even Shakespeare couldn’t write this Washington farce

In Buzz by Adam GoodmanLeave a Comment

The bard of all bards beckons us now, to salve our minds and clear our conscience.

Shakespeare’s observation about the theater of the real was right. When you strip it all away, much of the din consuming us is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

The sound today comes from a veritable blizzard of news, information and social media pursuing and parsing everything that’s said and everything that’s done.

The fury is the attitude and emotion behind it.

The sheer volume of both is unprecedented; the impact of both is unnerving and overwhelming, because people can only take so much bad news.

As we see Comey cometh, and Comey goeth.

As we bear witness to a president who dispatches a thousand questions about Russia with seven simple words: “no obstruction, no collusion, he’s (Comey’s) a leaker.”

As we see health care reform, the most precious responsibility of government toward the governed, held hostage by dueling partisans undaunted by missed deadlines or purposely massaged truth.

As we kvetch about the tortoise-like tempo behind a long-overdue initiative to build new concrete and cyber highways needed to transport America into the future.

All while the British nearly went Brexit on their new prime minister, and the punk of Pyongyang nearly went off against his neighbors with atomic toys of mass destruction.

As Americans watch this endless procession of breaking news stories, of leaders rising and falling, promises made and broken, truths and untruths, we the audience are left to make sense of it all.

Our ability, much less our interest, in absorbing this cacophony of news and news commentary has reached a breaking point. We struggle because there are too many voices all talking at once.

In Washington, it’s them talking to them. They’re consumed with their opinions, not ours. Their careers, not ours. Their system, not ours. Their world, not ours. They talk about feeling our pain, but do little to relieve it. No one’s talking to us. It’s galling.

In our world, real people with real challenges wake every morning facing the unknowable and stressing about the unpredictable as they try to fathom the unfathomable.

Will I have a job? Will I keep my job? Are my children safe in school; are they getting the education they need to compete in a highly competitive world; can they afford to go to college? How am I going to afford rising health and car insurance premiums? Am I going to be okay?

These are real-life concerns in a real-life world. Yet the news coming out of Washington is full of selfish thrashing and slashing.

There, where Potomac fever is as deadly as scarlet fever, the ballet of the self-appointed icons of importance continues. The canard is played out in hearing rooms where the gotcha game lives, in marbled corridors where the deals live, and in lobbyists’ offices where the money lives, all while democracy is quietly bartered away one vote at a time.

Shakespeare didn’t have to deal with a Washington like this, with a Congress whose approval ratings are mired in the sub-basement, with media whose credibility for objectivity is headed there, consumed by a public more information-weary than ever before.

No one is blameless here.

The president’s voter-mandated crusade to fundamentally fix a system that rewards the few and challenges the rest must now move into another gear. He must put the campaign for America’s future ahead of the campaign that gave him the chance to take us there.

Congress must get to work again, not on each other or at each other but for each other. We expect less talk, fewer excuses and a lot more action than investigative hearings investigating themselves.

And, yes, the media has a role to play here as well, by resisting the lure of the sensational to return to their legitimate role as watchdogs of the public interest shorn of ratings-driven confirmation bias. We just want the facts, and the respect of knowing what to make of it.

America is a nation built on hope. It breeds strength and resolve that powers us through good times and bad, and that encourages us to pull together in the greatest example of democracy known to man.

Today we have too many voices all talking at once. It’s time for Washington, and all of us, to move as one.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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