No Country for Old Politicians
by Byron King
November 19, 2020
President-elect Joe Biden is 77 years old today. Tomorrow, Nov. 20, he’ll turn 78.
A former Senator and Vice President, he’s been a political fixture in Washington, D.C., since 1973.
Newly reelected Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is 80 years old. She’ll be 81 next March. She’s been a member of Congress since 1987.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell — also just reelected — is 78 years old. He’ll be 79 in February. He’s been a Senator since 1985.
While many things are still up in the air right now — from President Trump’s election lawsuits to the Senate runoffs in Georgia — odds are that Biden, Pelosi and McConnell will be at the top of U.S. national leadership in 2021 and beyond.
In other words, come January they’ll constitute America’s “politburo.”
But what is immediately obvious about all three of these people?
Answer: They’re old.
Indeed, the word “elderly” comes to mind.
And it’s worth noting, they grew old in Washington as part of the government power structure.
There’s a problem here, and it’s not just the respective age and tenure of these three people…
It all goes much deeper than that.
The Constitution doesn’t have formal “term limits” for House members or Senators. That’s a regrettable error by the Founding Fathers, some might say.
Instead, we’re stuck with many members of a near-permanent, Washington-based political class who don’t know when to hang it up and go home.
What’s worse, it seems that for many in politics, successive failures are a prerequisite to promoting upwards.
Consider, for example, that one of Joe Biden’s first major votes as a freshman Senator in 1973 was to oppose building the Alaska Pipeline.
The Senate voted 85 to 5 to build the line. He was crushed.
But from the perspective of 47 years, I can only wonder with awe and astonishment — if not fear — what America might have been like had Biden’s opposition to Alaska energy carried the day.
Just ponder life in the late 1970s, ’80s and ‘90s without those billions of barrels of oil that came out of the North Slope.
Today, Biden still opposes new pipelines. And in general, he’s promoting a set of geologically and industrially impossible ideas that will crash the U.S. energy system, as I’ve discussed.
This is destined to become yet another key strategic blunder that the U.S. has made since the end of the Cold War.
I discussed them not long ago… and our geriatric triumvirate had a role in making them possible.
In 1994, Biden, Pelosi and McConnell all voted for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The deal opened the sluice gates for U.S. industry to decamp and head to Mexico.
In 2000 and 2001, all three players — Biden, Pelosi and McConnell — supported normalizing trade relations with China, eventually bringing China into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Again, this opened the gates wide for massive deindustrialization across the U.S.
In 2003 and subsequently, the above-named trio supported the war in Iraq. They’ve continued to support the idea of long-term, “forever wars” in the Middle East and Central Asia.
These wars sapped U.S. military strength, bled the country of funds, embroiled America deeper in debt and killed or wounded tens of thousands of U.S. personnel, plus allies, and of course devastated property and populations across the affected battle space.
All over these three strategic issues, we see the clear fingerprints of Biden, Pelosi and McConnell.
How many truly bad policies can a politician support?
Yet here they are… Three political survivors, atop the political heap just now… looking to run things for a while longer.
And if NAFTA, WTO and Middle East wars don’t make the case, look back at the Crash of 2008.
Biden, Pelosi and McConnell all played a role in the leadup to the global financial disaster of 12 years ago.
They were part of the political overwatch for what was happening in plain view: the lack of financial or regulatory oversight.
After the Crash, with trillions of dollars in global-scale damage, the three politicians played important roles in wallpapering the cleanup, during which only the most minor of perps ever saw the inside of a prison cell.
Now we come to 2020.
As COVID unfolded — and Biden “campaigned” for president from his basement — Pelosi and McConnell dragged their feet on legislation to protect not just the “economy” in general, but to alleviate true hardship for tens of millions of people during the economic wreck.
In particular, Pelosi and McConnell sabotaged one targeted “stimulus” bill after another this summer and fall. Instead of some manner of extended relief, we saw mostly posturing and rhetoric, with plenty of raw personality and attitude.
Meanwhile, the lines at America’s food banks grew longer and longer.
Yet for all the time and politics that have flowed under the proverbial bridge in recent years, there’s no sign of remorse or reflection from the current political leadership. No apologies that their decisions — from deep in the past to entirely recent — have been, in so many ways, not just “bad” but disastrous to America, especially to the American working class.
It once again brings to mind the words of Talleyrand. He said of the returning Bourbon nobility, after the Napoleonic Wars, “They had learned nothing and forgotten nothing.”
Another way to look at things is that Biden, Pelosi and McConnell represent a return to the Beltway version of “normal.”
That is, a return to the comfortable, log-rolling ways of Washington.
It’s now back to the days of yore, pre-Trump. It’s Clinton-Bush-Obama all over again.
The only thing missing in all of this is the “good old days” of the Soviet Union and the Cold War.
Stated more bluntly, the current setup is rigged for a return to globalization, financialization and continued deindustrialization.
We’ll have more government of, by and for the big money interests, enabled by a pliant Fed that will keep interest rates near zero (or below) to accommodate the Wall Street casino.
And since the looming political dynamic is for political wannabes to oppose everything that Trump attempted to accomplish, we’ll have more government bureaucracy — that glorious Deep State — with all its alphabet soup agencies, employing people to write voluminous regulations.
Expect television-ready circus events for anything that destroys what Trump has wrought. Signing ceremonies for bills reversing “Trump’s” legislation will feature more guests and longer speeches than anything the “Orange Man” ever put on.
Indeed, they’ll out-Trump even Trump!
Perhaps we’ll even see a visit to part of Trump’s border wall in Texas, where a guy with a cutting torch will begin to burn the steel.
The daily news cycle will be dominated by tokens and bones — shiny things thrown to the latest victims of whatever new thought-crime captures the hearts and minds of media conglomerates, usually via the whim of some billionaire oligarch.
And overseas, we’ll surely see a revival of Davos-oriented “foreign policy,” which prizes globalism over national interests.
You should anticipate the U.S. reentering the Paris Accords and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as a new “deal” with Iran on sanctions and nuclear weapons. (That is, we lift sanctions, they build weapons. Easy, right?)
And we’ll be showered with grand new, global-scale ideas from the same geniuses — or their intellectual and spiritual successors — who gave us NAFTA, WTO, China-China-China and expanded NATO to the border of Russia, inviting the inevitable Russian pushback.
Stand by for more of that so-called “interagency process” on which now-cashiered LtCol Alexander Vindman was so keen, and which formed the basis for the presidential impeachment farce that preceded the COVID pandemic.
Through it all, expect more of the occasional, so-called “bipartisan consensus” in Congress, which usually leads to massive, super-expensive bills that are mostly written by lobbyists, cobbled together by staff and which almost nobody reads before some midnight vote.
If America somehow wanted more of “the same” as in the days pre-Trump, we’re all about to get it, good and hard.
What if some modern version of Washington Irving’s character, Rip Van Winkle, had gone to sleep in, say, 2015, and awakened today?
Well… Unlike the original Rip — who fell asleep in Colonial America, under British rule, and awakened decades later in an independent United States of America — there would be no shock, right?
To the extent that anything has changed in the past five years, it’s now all about to be set back onto the original track.
Big government, big spending, endless wars, plenty of regulation, globalization proceeding apace, financialization predominant and deindustrialization throwing people out of jobs.
Nary a word against any of it…
And who are the leaders of the drive backwards? Same old familiar names…
Or to use another literary analog, go to William Butler Yeats and his poem Sailing to Byzantium, It’s the source of that famous line, “No country for old men.”
Yeats made a point about the frustration, if not agony, of getting old. His solution was to sail away to some mythical Byzantium, where age and infirmity could be overcome.
It’s much like modern Washington… where old politicians cling to power, egos unbound as they attempt to feel younger by repeating the errors of their past.