Veronica Hendrix

*Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that one thing is true: (1) the President is dead wrong; (2) this is as far as my homage to Sam Cooke goes in my anemic attempt to be witty.

The recent debt ceiling debacle has been nauseating. I could say something else laced with finely crafted expletives but my formal training as a journalist precludes me from doing so.

I along with countless people around the world became weary of hearing about the debt ceiling which looped around the 24-hours cycle Ad nauseam.

But I tell you, I’ve learned more about the workings of the American government during President Obama’s term than I have with any other President.  It’s not because I am more astute, engaged or plugged into the political scene, it’s because he – the leader of the free world who happens not to look like the majority of the citizenry he presides over –   is challenged on every turn. Consequently, the world media covers his every move, detractor and nuance of his presidency with cult like vigor because it’s a labyrinth of intrigue, drama and conflict – daily. I am exhausted when I put it in these terms.

But here’s where I think the President is dead wrong. In his July 25th address before the nation about the urgency of raising the debt ceiling he said, “The American people may have voted for a divided government, but they didn’t vote for a dysfunctional government.”

This is where the President and I part company. I believe those Americans who voted for a divided government also voted for a dysfunctional government. And the debt ceiling spectacle was just the beginning of what’s to come now that we officially have a three ring circus in our legislative branch with the Tea Party neophytes plopping down in the center of the ring like a 2-ton elephant who hasn’t yet achieved its full weight.

The debt ceiling negotiations played out under the big tent big time with clowns honking their horns and high flying trapeze acts tittering on the edge of danger all in the halls of Congress. The chorus of Republicans and GOP candidates jockeying for a Presidential nod made it clear that they would rather shut down the government and default on the nation’s debt than to work with this President, be reasonable and do what was right for the American people. Now tell me that’s not dysfunctional.

Because of their antics, they’ve been called some choice words such as terrorist, reckless, anti-democratic, and counter constitutional. Not bad characterizations given the drama played out in the Congressional theater. The sound bite I like the most is, “It’s just an extraordinary act of hostage-taking on the part of the Tea Party.”

In essence, they pinched the nation’s nose and made it hold it breath until it cried, “Uncle!” Now that the President has acquiesced to the bullies on the playground, the United States has been banished to purgatory by Standards and Poor’s.   You see they lowered the nation’s credit rating from AAA to AA+ not because the United States is a bad credit or financial risk, but because our country is now viewed as a calamitous political risk and an “exceptionally polarized and dysfunctional government.”

The bottom line is Standards and Poor’s and the world have no confidence in the United States to solve its fiscal matters because of the characters cast in starring and principal roles in our government. The fallout from this downgrade is yet to be seen. But we will take it in the teeth when the stuff begins to roll downhill. Those who voted for a divided government will feel it too. There’s no Teflon on their backs.

That gets me back to my point. Our governance is officially dysfunction. We now wear the moniker like a designer label.  This latest spectacle proves it. We’ve moved so far from the center of sanity after the  latest mid-term elections, I’ve lost confidence too.

Here’s my closing commentary, for all its worth. The conventions that once defined this nation have changed with President Obama in office. The social order that once was is no longer. I think these two realities are at the center of the turbulence in Washington. They are realities that are an impossible pill for some to swallow. That’s probably why Washington is all choke up and citizens like me are gagging.

(Veronica Hendrix is a syndicated columnist and feature writer whose work has covered the span of the human continuum – from clinical trials of male contraceptives, to the gang violence. For comments, interviews, speaking engagements or moderator requests please send an email to [email protected].)