In the classic 1987 movie The Princess Bride, the main character Wesley, as “The Dread Pirate Roberts,” chases Vizzini and Fezzik up the “Cliff’s of Insanity.” With all this talk of fiscal cliff, it’s natural to compare the two.
Actually, the comparison fits better than you might think. The cliffs are dubbed “The Cliffs of Insanity,” replacing the descriptor “fiscal” in our modern kidnapping of the budget –er, Buttercup- of the United States of Florin, er, America.
It really is insanity, isn’t it? Our elected officials are spending December jousting over a budget crisis they created, all the while insisting that the other side is intractable. It’s like our country has somehow granted two children the right to “defer” their argument on the piggy bank’s contents until December, but they’ve been able to spend money all year. Fiscal? Not very. Henceforth, everywhere the word “fiscal” or “budget” appears, it shall be replaced by the word “insanity,” for crazy it is. By royal decree I make it so, like Prince Humperdink’s decree to marry Princess Buttercup.
The Players and their roles:
John Boehner: shall play the slow but gentle giant Fezzik. Boehner proposed a plan that cuts Medicare and Medicaid, healthcare, and social programs. “What we're putting forth is a credible plan that deserves serious consideration by the White House and I would hope that they would respond in a timely and responsible way.” I really wish he had added “That’s all I have to say.” That would have been perfect. As speaker, Boehner is taking the issue entirely upon his shoulders, and he has the strength of the Republican party to do it. Unfortunately, the proposal of cutting needed programs is the equivalent of dirt dumb. Fezzik does his job as “heavy” for the plotting and scheming by the privileged in the story, but his position is flatly wrong, and you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know it. Boehner, unlike the loveable Fezzik, seems to do it willingly.
Another odd parallel: Count Rugen made a mortal enemy in Inigo Montoya by cheating Inigo’s father of the money he promised him. We might consider our future generations in casting Inigo, but this is a play, so we’ll have to cast someone relevant to today.
For Inigo Montoya, the Spanish Swordsman extraordinaire himself, we cast two characters: Timothy Geitner and Jay Carney. They’ve alternated their fencing duties so far, as Inigo himself alternated right and left hands. Geithner outlined the proposal, beginning the fight with McConnell, and Carney continued the fight in his press conferences. Boehner said his plan was “credible.” Carney might well say “Credible? I don’t think that word means what you think it means.”
Guilder and Florin, the nations involved in the plot Prince Humperdink arranges, the reasons for all the drama herein, are words for former dutch currency, now the Euro. Seriously? Yep. It’s about the Benjamins, even in the world of The Princess Bride. Well, the Dutch Benjamins. I suppose that makes it all about the “Lars”, or the “Hans,” perhaps.
Barack Obama plays the brilliant Vizzini. I know, this one hurts a bit, but it’s just a play so you’ll have to suspend your disbelief. Vizzini is all smarts, all knowledge, but he outsmarts himself. He thinks too much. He doubles back on himself, and in the end, fails to realize that the person he’s outwitting, the trap he’s sprung, has been set by the person he’s arguing with. Congress created this Cliff, it’s a trap they’ve built up an immunity too, taking it in tiny doses for years, like iocane powder. The fact that Obama has to play this game is a plot device designed to move the story along in an interesting way, nothing more. It is “a play told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” We like Vizzini. We’d like to play chess with Vizzini, though he would certainly win. But despite his delusions and his title as gang leader, he is little more than a pawn in a great game.
Miracle Max: Jack Lew, White House Chief of Staff. Lew won’t be the headliner in negotiations, but he will be present, and he’s reportedly a hardliner against cuts to entitlement programs. We’ll need Republicans to swallow that giant pill. This isn’t “true love,” Max. You can be rough about it. Though it’s a “bit” part, let’s face it, nothing gets fixed without Miracle Max.
Who will save us from the plotting of the arrogant Prince Humperdink and his minions? Who will be our Wesley?
We, us, Westley, must climb the Cliffs, sleeper hold Fezzik, out-fence Inigo, and out-wit Vizzini. Only then will we finally hold Buttercup in our arms again.
AS YOU WISH, America.
Regardless, let’s hope these guys can accomplish something before the end of the year. If there is good news, it is that tax cuts will automatically expire. Even inaction is action, as the budget Buttercup will be returned to America/Florin without the expense, without making such a drama about it.
And without all that yucky kissing.