The Roman satirist Juvenal had a phrase for it, “Panem et Circenses”. Translated it means “Bread and Circuses”. It referred to the common practice of Roman politicians buying the vote of the easily distracted voter base with free grain and costly entertainment. The theory was, if you can’t govern, dangle shiny objects. It worked.
Well, this historic lesson certainly was not lost on the current ruling majority in the House of Representatives. Watching their “Obamacare” strategy for the mid-term elections go up in smoke like Nero’s Rome, they decided that playing that same old fiddle until November just wasn’t going to hold their rabble’s attention. It was time to put down the fiddle, acknowledge the fire, and come up with a new plan. Except the new plan was actually a two year old plan, Benghazi. Yes, there’s nothing like a blood curdling conspiracy theory to attract the torch bearing mob and call them to action (and donations to the NRCC). Pull out your wallets and hold on to your tin foil hats! Do we have a circus for YOU!
Now John Boehner, the Weeper Speaker of the House, solemnly promised that this would not be a side show in a circus, and this part was true. Actually, it would be the main event, the center ring, a Cirque de Soleil La Nouba.
“Come one, come all, and see the amazing chameleon conspiracy! Watch as allegations appear out of nowhere, disappear, and turn into new ones right before your eyes!. Sit in amazement as seven GOP acrobats twist and turn facts into unbelievable shapes and sizes unrecognizable to any civilized human! Hold your breath as one subpoena after another flies across your Fox News screens while headlines warn of the impending “Scandal of DOOM!” All this and more for that mere cost of $25, $75, $100, $250, or $500. Whatever you can contribute!”
That’s right, conspiracies don’t come cheap and setting up a
Select Committee circus tent doesn’t either. Taxpayer’s dollars don’t grow on trees, even if GOP conspiracies do. While the obvious question of political motivation popped up, another more disturbing one begged to be answered. Should the Republican Party be using the tragedy of lost American lives to raise money from an easily enraged base? When asked this very question, John Boehner, doing his best Nero impression, picked up his fiddle again and played a new song. “Our focus is on getting the answers to those families who lost their loved ones. Period.” The reporter asked again, and again the same tune. Another reporter asked, the fiddle hit the same chords. Yes, Nero turned into Mr. Roboto right before our eyes. He just put on his best tanning salon face and repeated the same response. Domo arigato.
So here we are, in May of 2014, two years and four congressional circuses later, still investigating the scandal that never was. This may be a waste of taxpayer’s dollars. This may be a waste of television air time (but then again, wasting air time is what Fox News does best). But circuses can be profitable for a party searching for a reason to exist in the 21st Century, and what better historical example than to take a page out of a book from the 2nd Century. Give them Panem et Circenses”, Bread and Circuses.