Chapter Two: Socrates reads

Editor’s prologue: The Great Greek, freshly channeled, had no idea where to start in conducting his review of the press corps. He returned to life with no knowledge whatever of the issues comprising current Washington debate. Life on Olympus? Meretricious performance, in which simpering laureates danced and played for the gods. Forced to perform silly, staged, stale debates at disorderly banquets for the drunken immortals, Socrates, deftly, held back his great gorge as he dreamed of the day he’d flee heaven.

Only the gods could bring chairs to high slopes and draw pleasure from observing the folly of humans. And so, once he’d come to D.C. and he’d nobly agreed that he was willing to mount his remarkable project, he approached me one morning and asked for a topic with which to kick off his critique.

The pressure I felt when he made his request was almost, I assure you, beyond bearing. The Greatest of Greeks was in town due to me; now he asked my advice with his project! Yet, there was one nagging issue in our public debate that had proven to be so annoying and silly... Well, I felt certain the matter could safely be brought to The Greek as the place he should start.

At the time of his appearance in June ’96, one “debate” had been raging for almost two years in the ongoing warfare between the two parties--the endless discussion, still dragging on without end, about changing the Medicare program. The new Congress--Republican--denied any thought of actually “cutting” the popular program. And when the White House would loudly insist this was false, Republican spokesmen presented these statements as proof that President Clinton was a liar.

Republicans insisted they weren’t “cutting” the program; relentlessly, Democrats said that they were. Even now, it’s hard to imagine how a matter so simple could possibly take more than one NewsHour to settle; but the over-matched press corps, true to its nature, was unable to sort out the confusion. As I’ve said, this silly “debate” had gone on for two years at the time The Great Greek first appeared in D.C. Indeed: to we condemned to watch Crossfire each evening, it almost seemed that this wasteful and vexing debate would last longer than the senseless wars around Ilium...

Why not suggest that The Greatest of Greeks begin his critique with this nagging discussion? Over bagels one morning at an Au Bon Pain eatery, I introduced The Great Greek to the Medicare question. The Greatest of Greeks was now tremblingly eager to begin his review of the Washington press corps. And once The Great Greek had a taste of this topic, my, oh my--didn’t Socrates read!

NOTE, 8/19/99: Since last fall, our tireless analysts have worked night and day on assignments for The Daily Howler. But we soon hope to bring you our second chapter, describing Socrates' incomparable critique of the 1995-96 Medicare discourse.

In the meantime, position papers! The Great, Great Greek with his endless wisdom prepared three reports on the Medicare mess. We present them for your inspection.

A tale of three numbers, 11/8/96: His shortest. The Medicare debate was a tale of three numbers. The press corps kept leaving one out.

Clinton speaks, 10/6/96: Was Clinton lying about "cuts" in the GOP program? He used the same term to describe his own plan.

The Speaker's new language, 7/20/96: The Great Greek's magnum Medicare opus. All the conceptual chaos of the Medicare discourse, 1995-96.

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