The following is a mythical conversation between a mythical moderate Democratic Congressman and a mythical moderate Republican Congressman at a pub in Washington, D.C., in the aftermath of the American health care reform debate. Any resemblance to reality is entirely intentional.
Donkey: "Whew. Glad that's over. What'll ya have?"
Elephant: "The usual. A beer. You buying?"
Donkey: "Sure. You picked up the tab last time."
Elephant: "To be honest, I'm glad this thing is over, too."
Donkey: "How so?"
Elephant: "Well, I agree with (former Bush speechwriter) David Frum. Us Republicans went all in, thinking that if we made Obama stand alone on health care reform, he would fail. (House Minority Leader) John Boehner and (Senate Minority Leader) Mitch McConnell told us to say 'No' to everything that the president proposed. That's what we did. We tried to filibuster everything. More than any Congress in history. And we lost. I still can't believe it."
Donkey: "Yeah, you guys threw everything at us. You said the reform would provide benefits for illegal immigrants. You said it would fund abortions. You said it would create death panels for seniors. Even though you knew none of that stuff was true. But seriously, you think you had it tough? (Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi is brutal. That woman should be tested for hormones. She didn't twist my arm. She threatened to cut it off. In the end, there was no way I could do anything but vote for this plan."
Awkward silence No. 1
Elephant: "So, what now?"
Donkey: "Well, some things in the bill go into effect right away. Tax breaks for small businesses that provide health care coverage for employees. Children with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage. Children can be included in a family plan until age 26. Lifetime insurance limits will be prohibited. This bill will provide health care insurance to 32 million more Americans. We'll now cover about 95 percent of the American people. How could you guys really be against these things? You're on the wrong side of history here. The current system is not sustainable. Health care costs have become leading causes of bankruptcy and foreclosures."
Elephant: "Well, what you guys can't get through your heads is that we can't afford this thing. We are saddling our kids and our grandkids with insurmountable debts."
Donkey: "Are you kidding me? The Congressional Budget Office estimated that this reform bill will cut the federal deficit, not add to it."
Elephant: "Well, I don't believe their numbers. Furthermore, I don't think these reforms do anything to control the root causes of health care cost increases. Adding to the nanny state and creating another government bureaucracy can't be the prescription to cure what ails us. We're not a European country."
Awkward silence No. 2
Elephant: "So, I suppose you guys and Keith Olbermann and all the other moonbats out there will be doing a victory dance tonight."
Donkey: "Naw. It doesn't really feel like that. This bill doesn't go far enough for many of the people in our caucus. In the end, we had to take the best bill we could get. I do have a soft spot in my heart, though, for the soul of Ted Kennedy."
Awkward silence No. 3
Elephant: "Don't think for a moment that we think this thing is over. We know you guys won't be happy until we have an entire single-payer, universal system."
Donkey: "Won't deny that. We believe that health care is a right. It's right there in the Declaration of Independence -- 'life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.' How can you have that without access to health care?"
Elephant: "That's a leap, my friend."
Donkey: "Who are you to decide who doesn't get access to health care?"
Elephant: "Who are you to force this on millions of American people? You're talking about one-sixth of the U.S. economy here."
Awkward silence No. 4
Elephant: "Hey, did you see that?"
Elephant: "That was Rush Limbaugh that went by on the other end of the bar. He was stuffing the pretzels into his pockets. Remember, he promised that if this goes through, he would move to Costa Rica."
Donkey: "You know what's really funny about that? Costa Rica has socialized medicine. That's what he would be running to."
Elephant: "I know. I guess there are buffoons on both sides of the aisle, aren't there?"
Donkey: "On that, we can agree. Hey, where you going?"
Elephant: "I gotta walk out past the Tea Party people. I've got to put on my outraged face."
Donkey: "Well, good luck with that. They were spitting on us."
Elephant: "How did we get to this point? It didn't always used to be that way. You and I could debate to the teeth all week, but we used to have a beer or two every Friday. We always tried to compromise and find common ground that could benefit the American people. I swear, our democracy is devolving, not evolving."
Donkey: "Disturbing, isn't it? Oh, don't worry, I won't tell Boehner or McConnell that you met me here for a friendly brew, if you promise you won't tell Pelosi or (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid that I had one with you."
Elephant: "Got your back. Don't want to look weak in the caucus. Good luck in November. It's going to get even more ugly."
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at email@example.com.