As the nation, once again, experiences the naked politics of brinkmanship and the dysfunction of our national government, we would do well to realize that the latest histrionics in Washington over a federal shutdown is but a warm-up bout.
The main event comes later this month when Congress must act to raise the debt ceiling or, in essence, default on its debts. Federal officials have estimated that such congressional action must be taken by Oct. 17 to avoid an international calamity.
Most experienced Washington pundits seem convinced it will not come to that, and that some sort of ragged deal will be crafted in the next couple of weeks to avoid such an embarrassing train wreck.
We are not so sure.
The Washington standoff increasingly takes the appearance of an ideological holy war that sacrifices reason and caution at the altar of "winning" regardless of the national cost.
A government shutdown is inconvenient, uncomfortable and nerve-racking, but the nation failing to pay its debts would be a disaster internationally and would almost surely send the nation's stock markets spiraling down.
After all, the federal government has been shut down a number of times before and the nation survived. Sure, some political careers were mortally wounded in the process (not always a bad thing), but the nation carried on. Such is likely to be the outcome of the current donnybrook.
But, to contort a phrase from unsuccessful presidential candidate and billionaire Ross Perot, that giant sucking sound you hear is the leadership vacuum in our nation's capital. We don't say that because the two parties are at loggerheads. Frankly, that is what opposing political parties do, especially in a representative democracy.
No, we say it because the current kerfuffle is about neither policy nor ideology, but about positioning. The parties clearly are far more worried about making sure the other side gets the public "blame" for shutting down the government rather than finding a solution.
In 1995 and 1996, the last time the government was closed for political purpose, it was the Republicans who took the heat. They underestimated then-President Bill Clinton and misread the public's mood and paid for it at the polls.
The same could happen again this year. Or, voters could buy the Republican narrative that it is, in fact, President Barack Obama who is unwilling to negotiate.
But we think the public is smarter than that. We believe that rather than looking for someone to blame, the voters want someone to credit. We stand ready to do just that for anyone who puts the country ahead of personal aspirations and steps forward to exercise bold, decisive and creative leadership that will pull the nation back from a disastrous brink.