How Not to Build Consensus

As I recall, the message out of the November election’s ratification of divided government was that Americans wanted both sides to work together, right? (We’re remarkably generous in imputing teleology to the electorate). If so, this is probably not how you get there. From the Hill:

In a sign of just how charged and hyperbolic this year-end debate [over the fiscal cliff] has become, House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md., used an unfortunately timed comparison that likened Republicans trying to use the debt limit for leverage on spending cuts to people threatening to shoot their own children.

“It is somewhat like taking your child hostage and saying to somebody else, ‘I’m going to shoot my child unless you do what I want done.’ You don’t want to shoot your child,” Hoyer said at a press conference following a brief 10-minute pro forma session for the House.

I think we can safely say that “unfortunately timed” doesn’t quite cover it. This way be the worst time to insert a child-shooting metaphor into a discussion of fiscal policy, but is there ever a good time? And was that last sentence — “you don’t want to shoot your child” — a necessary capstone to the discussion? One imagines a shooting star over Hoyer’s head as he finishes the line and “The More You Know” appears behind him.

I hope the incoming freshmen members of Congress are taking notes. For their edification, the following are comparisons that are never going to work out for you under the Capitol Dome: anything regarding the Nazis or the Holocaust, terrorism, murder, child abuse, or likening America to some totalitarian regime. 

Also, a few other pointers: The tendency for elected officials to pronounce something “Orwellian” is inversely correlated with the likelihood they’ve actually read Orwell; Please do not call for “an adult conversation,” “a serious debate,” or a “solutions-oriented approach” from the floor of your chamber — facilitate the conversations, debate, or solutions yourself. It is supposedly what we’re paying you for; Finally, keep in mind that silence is a useful tool for elected officials, if for no other reason that its capacity to act as a cloaking device for stupidity.