As the debate over whether and how to raise the nation’s debt ceiling and cut the deficit droned on and on the past few weeks, lawmakers seemed to be running out of not just time before the August 2 deadline, but also out of original metaphors to brighten up their statements and positions.
Here are the top five dumbest recurring themes of the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations.
1. What’s on the menu?
Though Republicans feasted on pizza delivered to the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) on Friday, the most dominant meme of the past few weeks — food — has focused on other treats.
To underline the importance of avoiding default, President Barack Obama said July 11 that it was time to “eat our peas.” (The Pea Council supported the president’s message, and added that a few lentils couldn’t hurt either.) Boehner likened the Democrats in the negotiation process to Jell-O: “Some days it’s firmer than others; some days it’s like they left it out overnight.” Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) lashed out at attempts to cut from defense spending, suggesting, “let’s pass a bill to cover the moon with yogurt.” Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum’s immediate reaction to the Sunday night debt deal was that it was a “shit sandwich,” and Black Caucus chairman Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) came along on the picnic as well. Sunday, he called the deal a sugar-coated Satan sandwich.”
2. We are family
Though Congress is nothing at all like a big, happy family, they certainly are fond of family budget metaphors. Tea party favorite Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) missed the mark last week when he framed country clubs as a typical family luxury. “When someone is overextended and broke, they don’t continue paying for expensive automobiles; they sell the expensive automobiles and buy a cheaper one,” he said. “They don’t continue paying for country club dues, they drop out of the country club.”
Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) drove deep into the garage with his own family spending metaphor.
“This is akin to a family saving $100,000 in expenses by deciding not to buy a Lamborghini and instead getting a fully loaded Mercedes when really their budget dictates that they need to stick with their perfectly serviceable Honda,” he said.
3. Washington weather forecast
Most of the country is still in the grips of summer’s heat, and Washington, D.C. itself is under siege by triple-digit temperatures, but the White House is seeing an entirely different weather forecast: Cloudy, with a chance of deficit reduction.
In his statement to the press Sunday night, Obama said that the debt deal “begins to lift the cloud of debt and the cloud of uncertainty that hangs over the economy.” White House press secretary Jay Carney continued that theme Monday in his daily briefing to White House press, saying, “The cloud of uncertainty over the economy has lifted, maybe.”
4. VH1, Congress edition
That old standby of speechwriting, the pop culture reference, got a good workout over the past few weeks, whether it was House Democrats complaining that it “feels like ‘Groundhog Day’,” or Carney referring to spending decisions as “like ‘Sophie’s Choice’.” Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) accused Republicans of taking the country “into the ‘Twilight Zone‘” and Carney invoked “The West Wing,” Aaron Sorkin’s lauded political drama television series. He asked reporters last week whether they expected “a President Bartlet moment,” referencing the show’s fictional head of state walking up Pennsylvania Avenue to confront Congress.
House Republicans infamously played a scene from “The Town” to forge unity during negotiations. The selection included the line “we’re gonna hurt some people.”
Some politicians, however, turned to classic epics to express their feelings. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Boehner “chose to go to the Dark Side,” invoking the “Star Wars” series, and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) cracked wise about tea party Republicans with another trilogy: “The Lord of the Rings.”
“The tea party hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor,” he said of their tactics.
5. Even playing field?
Which brings us to one of the most overused speechwriting tropes of current times: the sports metaphor. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) called the “Cut, Cap and Balance” plan a “Hail Mary touchdown pass” last week.
“Let’s go and take what we can get in this, get the five yards, get the first down and fight the next battles,” he said.
Boehner accused the Democrats of double-talk during negotiations, and on July 22 said, “The White House moved the goalposts.”
One member of Congress, however, was confident that negotiations would be complete before the August 2 deadline for default: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) said Saturday that she was sure there would be a “ninth inning deal.”
Did we miss any tropes? What’s your favorite — or least favorite — ridiculous metaphor to have come out of the weeks of debate surrounding raising the debt ceiling and reducing the deficit? Let us know in the comments below.