Regarding the Dec. 28 editorial “The way out of the shutdown”:
As the government shutdown drags on, style has replaced substance, and the medium is no longer simply the message, as cable is the new coliseum broadcasting the latest contrived and costly political contest.
Politicians have seemingly absorbed the advice given to Russell Crowe’s character in the movie “Gladiator”: “I was not the best because I killed quickly. I was the best because the crowd loved me. Win the crowd.” Yet in the cable coliseum, combatants try only to win the portion of the crowd that already supports them.
So, the gladiator in chief may try to beat the 21-day 1995-to-1996 shutdown record before his endgame emerges, while the Democrats try to score as many glancing blows as possible before theirs. In ancient Rome, gladiator games were a cheap form of state-sponsored self-promotion. Today, as each combatant asks the American people, “Are you not entertained?,” perhaps we should say no and demand more statesmanship and less game-playing from our leaders.
Elliott Millenson, Potomac
Those poor civil service workers during the government shutdown. No idea when or whether they will be paid. Undoubtedly, it is stressful. Only I am not aware of any past shutdown for which they were not retroactively paid for their time off.
Now consider the taxpayers who pay for those government employee vacations. Taxpayers keep paying for NO service.
And consider the contractors. You might not bleed for the high-salary technical consultants, but don’t forget the janitors, food-service workers and other blue-collar workers. They get no back pay and either burn through their vacation or just don’t get a salary during the shutdown. No gift from Congress after the fact with back pay. Zero, zip, nada. Nothing but bills with no income to make the payment.
Michael J. Mercer, Vienna
We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: Giving in to bullies is never a good idea.
We have an ethical obligation to the “dreamers.” Theirs is a problem we created through decades of inviting in undocumented workers to oblige profiteering businesses.
There is no real problem that a $5 billion wall would solve. Give in to President Trump on this, and he will lead us deeper into unreality next time. Has anyone noticed how much worse our immigration situation has become under Mr. Trump?
The obvious answer is for Republican legislators to compromise on a veto-proof bill that would provide funds for 21st-century national security and a commitment to a reality-based immigration policy. And balance the power of an unbalanced executive.
Annlinn Kruger, Bar Harbor, Maine
As with every other government shutdown, I find myself becoming not just disappointed and frustrated but also increasingly angry. Though parties may blame each other — the administration may blame Congress, senators and representatives may blame the president, and the president may blame everyone in sight — they are all to blame because they are not doing their jobs. Compromise is the only way to forge ahead successfully.
Those of us who are not elected members of government would be fired if we did not do our jobs. Yet government workers who get their jobs done are sent home without pay while our elected officials, who have failed to do their jobs, take time off for the holidays with pay.
We might all take a lesson from the Vatican, where, from at least the 13th century, the conclave of cardinals, whose job it is to elect a new pope, are sealed off from the outside world until their job is successfully completed. In times gone by, if they did not do this within three days, they received only one meal a day. After five days, their meals became bread and water alone. All ecclesiastical revenue was cut off until the job was done.
Peter D. Grundl, Annandale
The Dec. 28 editorial suggesting a return to wall funding in exchange for permanent relief for “dreamers” made sense. In negotiating the deal, the devil remains in the details. Perceptions about this swap have fundamentally changed since Congress and the White House first contemplated it. For each side, the wall has become a holy icon. For President Trump’s base, the wall has come to mean a permanent barrier to hold back the tide (and demographics) of a nonwhite national majority. For most Americans — not just Democrats — the wall symbolizes divisiveness and brutality.
In the near term, each side can spin the song of victory to its base, but in the long run, the taxpayers lose, as does the moral ethos of the nation. The wall has been called “immoral,” because it is.
What to do? Cut the grand bargain with a stipulation that protects the nation, its citizens and taxpayers. Increase funding for border security to $10 billion, provided that all such funds pass through a nonpartisan border security commission that has thoroughly studied and considered the implication of expenditures for creating effective surveillance, cost-effective physical barriers as needed, and a just and humane infrastructure for processing migrants, refugees and asylum seekers that ensures their health, safety and well-being without separating families. Because neither side trusts the other, we need a buffer.
Let Mr. Trump proclaim victory all he wants as long as the reality serves the national interest.
Robert E. Honig, Potomac