July 28, 2011

It’s been said that once you observe, up close, the process of sausage-making, you lose your taste for the stuff. Which is why I prefer to stay out of the back room at the butcher shop.

If only I could look away from the hacking, cleaving and grinding of lawmakers who are attempting to take the scraps, shavings and leavings, the fat, fillers, ears, hooves and snouts of the debt negotiations, and stuff them into a synthetic casing.

Which will leave a worse taste in my mouth? The sausage itself or the indelible image of its creators whining, preening, backstabbing, stamping, pouting and then pretending that the links and patties set before us are a fine product, a tasty morsel to swallow once their stalling has jackknifed the value of our 401(k)s?

Leaders are supposed to manage or avoid crises, not create them. Put aside for a moment the fact that they can’t get the job done. Do they know how bad they look while they’re not getting it done? Do they watch their own reruns as they sprint from microphone to microphone, photo op to photo op? What is the point of hammering heads to get a House bill that’s got no chance in the Senate? What is the twisted logic of dooming a House bill to death in the Senate before it has even arrived? So this increasingly unmanaged chaos can play out a little longer? So that we can watch big clocks tick down the days, hours and minutes until Aug. 2, or 4, as the stock market surges and dips?

Let us appeal to their vanity.

Yes, boys and girls: All of you look stub-fingered and sloppy, your starched white aprons smeared with all manner of unsavory fluids and byproducts. Your brows are covered with sweat, your hair frizzed by the heat and your eyes glassy with panic. Wherever it is that you sit, whatever cleaver you’ve got poised, you’ve got a nation’s attention as you manipulate the chunks and slices of meat on the slab before you. Yet you seem more concerned with whose apron strings may get caught in the grinder.

Who won, who lost, who knows, who cares? Get it done and get it on the table.

Jeanne McManus, a former Post editor, is an occasional contributor to the op-ed page.