If I hadn’t been watching Jon Stewart to catch up on some outlier news, I would not have known that Republican John McCain and Democrat Nancy Pelosi may be BFFs. Stewart was “reporting” on the recent funeral of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. In a “break in the action,” McCain and Pelosi were walking together and having a jolly good time. They were laughing and looking warmly at one another. They probably did not know that at least one camera was tracking their stroll down Memory Lane.
It got me thinking that international funerals could be a great way to break gridlock King Abdullah’s was a special one because he was so popular with American Republicans and Democrats. It may have been his winning personality; it may have been that he was “just ordinary folks” when everyone went casual, or it possibly could have been that American politicians of both major parties just seemed partial to the leader of a country with 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves.
America’s “who’s who of oil” scurried to Riyadh.They came from Capitol Hill, from ‘K’ Street, from downtown Houston, and just about any place where Oil is King. Their roles in the funeral were passive; it was not for them to pontificate or even officiate. About the only thing left to do was to stand around and look uncomfortable. It would have made a great setting for the cast of the political satire, Alpha House.
Awkward moments are the times when guards are let down as individuals look for allies who can assure them than they’re not doing anything wrong. When possible, it’s good to be in conversation so that you don’t stand out as misfit for the occasion. So if you happen to be next to someone of a different political party, it doesn’t matter. You just want someone with whom to talk and to pretend as if there is no one else with whom you would rather be.
President Obama was at King Abdullah’s funeral, but the identity of Republicans with whom he chatted apparently is not for public consumption. Another mystery is what Republicans, if any, flew on Air Force One with him. Remember the funeral of Former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995? Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was delighted to be a passenger on President Bill Clinton’s plane, but then he was miffed because the President did not invite him to join the First Family in the front cabin. Maybe Clinton should have done some “bargain shopping” with the Speaker on the plane ride.
Most members of Congress are comfortable when they are inside their bubbles. That bubble usually includes their favorite places on Capitol Hill, the fanciest restaurants on or around ‘K’ Street, the nook where they incessantly make the annoying phone calls asking for money, and wherever friendly crowds assemble in their district. But if you put them in a place where they have to interact with people outside of their bubble, they are disarmed. This is particularly so if the occasion is characterized by the “fish out of water” feeling they inevitably get at a foreign dignitary’s funeral.
So, in an effort to promote bi-partisanship and possibly even actual governance, I propose that foreign leaders die on an intermittent schedule, no less than four weeks apart and no more than six weeks apart. No matter who the leader is or what country he or she ruled, the United States should spare no dignitaries to attend the funeral. If possible, they should all fly on Air Force One. The seating should be “Southwest-style,” take a number, please. No media allowed; cordial socializing required, and for those who cannot handle the rigors of bi-partisan conversation, one of the Air Force One restrooms will serve as a “time-out” room.
Upon returning to Washington, the Congress should form a Joint Committee on Future Funerals. That would be somewhat of a ruse; the main purpose would be to outline items due for bi-partisan consideration at the next funeral.
You might think that this proposed solution to gridlock is an act of desperation. Well you’re right; it is. But short of any better idea, I’ll look forward to the untimely demise of foreign leaders as our best call to bi-partisanship. Sorry, Joe Biden, you’ll have company at future funerals.