The president is in full campaign mode. So is Congress. The federal government has been put into a holding pattern until the November elections.
Like “Major, Major, Major” from “Catch-22,” it appears that although everyone in Washington is still there, no one is actually there.
President Obama could go back to Chicago and campaign from there, reconnecting with his old friend and former chief of staff, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel. Members of Congress could go back to their districts or wherever else it is they live, since everyone knows that nothing is going to happen.
If Washington was vacated, it would be a more honest expression of the reality of the status of governance for the next six months. It might help the American people believe that there is some integrity to the situation.
Of course, this would give the bureaucracy a disproportionate role in the everyday activity of the government. But on the other hand, it would focus the fact that Washington is already run almost entirely by a professional, mid-level cadre of government workers.
Congress only engages at the margin in the day-to-day activities of the government and since no legislation is going to be done, no budget resolution passed or individual appropriations bills completed, even the role of Congress and the White House is dramatically reduced.
If all the elected folks simply left town, it would create a clearer picture of how things are going to be managed until November.
The president especially needs to leave.
Not because he has been ineffective in managing the nation, but because in his zeal to find new groups to blame for our economic failures, by leaving town he could be in a position to travel the countryside blaming what he left behind.
In fact, he could even blame the White House since he would not be there. He could claim no residency and thus no responsibility. He could run against Washington, the Congress and the White House. It would be the ultimate political strategy, deftly executed from Chicago. It would also place the blame where it should be.
Members of Congress, once they returned home or to wherever, could also run against themselves.
Washington would be appropriately excoriated as the problem even by those who are there, because they would not be there.
In addition, the American people might find this refreshingly honest.
Finally, the people charged with governing will openly admit they do not plan to govern. The people would be joined in their general disgust for the lack of leadership and problem solving in Washington by the president and Congress.
Everyone could be against Washington except, of course, the bureaucrats who are left behind to tend the store.
In November, the president, running against himself, and the members of Congress, running as anti-incumbents, will be able to expect victory. They can then return to the Capitol, which will then be safe for habitation. The country will be renewed and we can get on with business as usual and await the next election. It’s a plan.
Judd Gregg is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on Foreign Operations. He also is an international adviser to Goldman Sachs.