WASHINGTON - 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the House not a creature was stirring -- not a Republican nor Democrat nor speaker nor majority nor minority leader. They all had fled town for the far reaches of the country, where they expected to spend at least some time trying to explain to the people who sent them here why they are incapable of rational behavior.
Near the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the big white mansion -- at least the residence portion -- was dark, too. Mr. President and Mrs. President and the two little presidents were tucked into beds in paradise, better known as Hawaii -- as far away as one can get and still be in the United States -- where they eagerly awaited the arrival of Santa with what some speculate is a sleigh loaded with coal.
Meanwhile, out in Virginia in fortress-like headquarters dedicated to fostering the safe and sane usage of weapons of mass destruction, Wayne LaPierre, the front man of the National Rifle Association (better known to readers of the New York tabloids as the "craziest man on earth" and the "gun nut") was hunkered down for another sleepless night of preparing to defend man's inhumanity to man or little kids.
He was reportedly disappointed at the coverage of his Friday press conference and on Sunday's "Meet the Press," in which he blamed everything except battlefield rifles for the latest school carnage. Perhaps the poor reviews stemmed from the fact he delivered his resounding endorsement of assault weapons for good guys and his offer to support taxpayer-financed security guards at 135,000 schools after a national moment of silence honoring all those children slain in Connecticut.
Also on Friday, dejected believers in the Apocalypse that didn't happen were rushing to buy the Christmas presents they didn't think they would need. To do so, some of these so called "preppers" apparently even had to reopen bank accounts they had closed in anticipation of the event. They only needed to wait until Jan. 1 when it looks like their forewarnings will come true as Congress and the president push the rest of us over the fiscal brink into economic oblivion.
That's what the scene looked like in the asylum on the Potomac just before those of the Christian faith honored the birth of their savior, who must be shaking his head in disbelief as even the mournful sounds of bells signaling the individual tragedy for each of the 26 victims of the Sandy Hook disaster could not drown out the "ka-ching" of cash registers for a holiday increasingly measured by a commercial yardstick.
Capitol Hill is expected to come alive again on Thursday for a few days. The president will cut his vacation short and return even before that after enjoying the warm breezes of his native state. But whether the legislative or executive branch is willing to do what's necessary to save us from the predicted chaos of draconian spending cuts is problematic. If not, all those presents bought on credit just may have to be returned, because tax increases will cut into the average American's wherewithal to pay for them.
Republicans, who have sworn an oath to the anti-tax gods, will be in the unusual position of causing new levies on the rest of us to protect a few extra bucks for zillionaires who would never miss them. And the Democrats who would deny the debilitating impact of actuarial realities on the entitlement programs and therefore the budget will have played a major role in furthering the disaster.
Helping to oversee all this governmental dysfunction is the president, who appears to have decided he wants to be designated by history as a leader after a first term of showing little evidence of that.
Will we be pulled back from the fiscal cliff? Will we be able to bring some sanity back to a firearms culture that has turned us into the most violent industrialized nation in the world? Will civility return to our political scene and major issues be addressed in a reasoned fashion? We can only pray.
In the meantime, Merry Christmas!
Dan K. Thomasson is the former editor of the Scripps Howard News Service.