Saturday, October 12, 2013

Hi! I'm a CEO, and I'm Here to Help

When I log out of my Netscape e-mail account, it redirects me to the AOL "news" page.  Tonight the first item I saw announced: "Starbuck's founder and CEO Howard Schultz has organized a petition for Americans to let the people at the Capitol know they are fed up with partisan bickering, and to tell lawmakers to do their jobs."

For a moment I was pissed off at Schultz for the words "partisan bickering," which are an integral part of corporate media's vocabulary for reducing politics to personalities and sports-style standoffs: the false-equivalence narrative. It's also, of course, part of President Obama's vocabulary, since at least 2008: The American people, he said at a press conference that November, "don’t want ideology; they don’t want bickering; they don’t want sniping. They want action, and they want effectiveness." The blogger Whatever It Is I'm Against It responded: "Really? Action and effectiveness are all very well, but I actually want some ideology, some sniping and especially some bickering or, as I like to call it, democratic debate."

At any rate, it occurred to me that, in the absence of a direct quotation, I shouldn't hold Howard Schultz responsible for those fightin' words, so I clicked through.  And indeed, it turned out that Schulz had said something slightly different:
In an interview with Howard Fineman of the The Huffington Post, Schultz said Republicans are more to blame for the current stalemate between the two parties. 'The parties are unequal in how the problem has been created,' he told The Huffington Post, adding, 'but both are equally responsible for trying to come up with a solution.'
But he couldn't stop there, alas.
Earlier this week, Schultz pledged the coffee chain would give a free cup of coffee to any customer in the US who buys another person a beverage at Starbucks as a way of setting an example to elected officials of how people can come together.
Well, we know how effective that is.  The Congressional gym, as we all know by now, is still open during the shutdown, and that's where elected officials come together to sweat, grunt, and peek at each other's peckers.  It doesn't seem to have prevented the shutdown.  And President Obama plays golf with Speaker Boehner, despite the latter's anxiety about the former's package.  Also not very effective in preventing the shutdown.

Besides, I'm not wild about this behind-the-scenes dealing.  I know that some of it is unavoidable in the real world, but I don't want our elected officials to come together over coffee and realize that they're really not that different from each other.  I want them to put the discussion on the public record, where everyone can see it and evaluate it.  Of course I'm being too generous to my fellow citizens there.  So many of them, Republican and Democrats alike, have happily accepted the false equivalence line; maybe they all got together over coffee and decided that it made sense.