The Freedom Caucus members of the crew of the U.S.S. House-N-Senate are gathered in small huddles, grumbling as the panic sets in.
Seven and a half years ago, despite their oath of loyalty to the mission, these sworn officers publicly pledged that they would mutiny against the ship’s new Commander. They had seen him and didn’t like the cut of his jib. Or whatever.
They would resist every order, fight every announced course, and do anything to immobilize the vessel. They wanted “their” ship back.
As for the passengers, many were excited by the drama, which they mistook for entertainment, cheering on the bellicose crew’s every ill-conceived act — even killing the engines and stopping the ship at sea. Some even cheered the attempts of the zealous crew to travel in uncharted waters and dock in dangerous ports.
Others, knowing they’ve been taken for a ride, were concerned or frightened. Some even sounded an occasional alarm.
Our story begins with the search for a new captain
Now this contingent of the wretched crew has trumpeted a new champion, their choice for a new captain. He built, ran and owned many shipyards. He appeared successful in business, notwithstanding many heartbreaking stories of his workers not getting paid after laboring to make him super rich.
Despite glittering when he walked and jingling when he talked and dazzling when he mocked, he had never actually piloted a boat. Not even a small one, let alone the most powerful nuclear-armed ship to sail the seven seas! (Oh, I’m sorry. I thought you knew that.)
He threatened to fire the cannon at anything suspicious, “Or why have them at all?”
He promised to cruise to lands of milk and honey, places where mana rained from the heavens, to islands filled with treasure buried shallow in the silky sands! And best of all, it would be theirs, all theirs. No other ships would be allowed to anchor!
What could possibly go wrong?
For a long time, the media was content being amused and entertained. Confined to the galley, they were unsure of how or whether to push back. Most had never covered vaudeville. Besides, the passengers seemed fascinated.
Questions — the answers to which were previously allowed to escape — somehow still haunted the ship. Some suggested the passengers finally realized that the old captain’s tour of duty was truly approaching its end, and the act of choosing the next Commander was at hand.
A closer look at Captain Jingle-Chips
How does he intend to get to these promised places? What is the timetable? How will we handle pirate attacks along the way? How much will the voyage cost? How will we deal with fuel, waste and stormy weather? Will the price of passage be raised? Who will pay for it? Will the fares for steerage increase more than first class?
Where are his charts for this “trust-me magical mystery tour”?
And where is the little boy from the storybooks, who is supposed to point at the hapless cartoon leader and yell, “The captain has no plans!”
The overzealous crew has just become aware that their captain-in-waiting is quirky. As in, very quirky.
His actions and statements are explained away by his mates. First as cute, then amusing, then entertaining.
He is the greatest of men, right? His self-proclaimed victories and his unique ability to demean, degrade, demonize, disparage and humiliate his detractors proves he’s the right man to put in the wheelhouse, yes? And his name has been hung on so many buildings. Win! Win. Maybe he’ll even put his name on our ship. (Now, there’s a plan!)
But gradually, his actions and statements seem more curious and more concerning. And then more worrisome, troubling, frightening.
Does he have the demeanor of captain? The focused eye? The unflappable determination to steer the Ship of State with a steady hand? Does he have “stature”? Can you envision him as the captain?
Captain Quirky? He seems more than quirky.
He’s now drilling holes in the bottom of the ship! OMG! (Note to fable fans: Aesop may have wanted to use this utterance but it hadn’t been created yet.)
Even some who shared his mood and disposition, those who had pledged to mutiny against the current captain, are having second thoughts.
Captain Quirky can’t seem to stop his urge to drill holes in the hull. Did the quarrelsome crew members really sign up to go down with the ship?
And so his brave co-conspirators have started to panic. Some have already jumped overboard. Others are hanging out near the life boats. Those remaining are weighing the merits of seeking yet another captain, or riding it out. Is there still time for calling for an orderly retreat? Or is it time to declare, “It’s every man for himself”?
Strange tale, this. What have we learned?
Was it not predictable that those who would scuttle their own ship would be the first to get wet feet?
If there are morals to this story, among them might be that a successful journey need not have high drama. Also, there’s no such thing as over regulating the need for life jackets. And that it’s better to keep the hand of steady management on the wheel.
But that’s for the passengers to decide.
For now, on behalf of the passengers, thanks to the current captain for a safe journey, sir.
And to the sad-sack mutineers: Get off while you still can.
Gary Ackerman represented Queens and Long Island in Congress for 30 years. He lives in Roslyn. This is part of a series of occasional guest amExpress columns.