OPINION — I was listening to crickets the other night. Like most things in nature, there’s a rhythm to the high-pitched clicking of their wings. Rhythm and tempo are the foundations of both music and nature. Analogies can be drawn to war and politics, peace and tranquility.
My fascination with rhythm probably began with fly-fishing — more specifically, false casting a fly rod — gradually lengthening the amount of line until delivering the fly precisely. My father introduced me to rallentando, although he didn’t know what it was actually called. He only knew that fly-casting has an element of music to it.
Properly done (at least the way I consider it proper) false casting a fly rod is done in four/four time. Quarter note (1), quarter rest (2), quarter note (3), quarter rest (4). Line back, rest, line forward, rest. As one gradually strips off more line from the reel, the slower the tempo — rallentando. Pardon the oxymoron, but it is a peaceful, restful exercise, rather like rocking a baby to sleep. Once you have the rhythm of it, it’s natural.
Of course there’s more to fly-fishing than learning to false cast. But like a drummer and bassist in a band, without the structural rhythm they provide, absolutely nothing else works. It’s called “the groove.” Nobody taps their toes or claps their hands to the oboe solo.
Get out of rhythm with a fly rod and you’ll go home with few fish stories to tell. Forget the rests and you’ll crack the line like a whip, snapping the fly right off. Get too much line out and rest too long and you’ll have a tangled mess either behind you in a tree or in front of you in the water.
The first months of Joe Biden’s presidency look a lot like a beginner trying to learn to false cast. Beginners tend to forget those rests. They’re in a hurry to get the fly “out there.” They end up slapping the water a lot and untangling their line from the trees behind them or worse, snapping the line and losing the fly.
Biden’s presidency, so far, has been anything but musical. And, his advisors seem to be so eager to move their agenda that they’re telling him to go faster, reach farther, strip more line and don’t worry about what’s in front or behind. It’s a surprise because he has a wealth of political experience. One would think he would be better at this by now.
Americans know what the agenda is. They voted for it. But the Biden administration seems to want to tie the flies, wade the creek, tie the fly to the line and cast it to the perfect riffle — all at the same time. It is a fretful thing to watch. And now with the Afghanistan evacuation, he has a tangled mess behind him and in front of him.
It’s been a rocky start. To briefly return to a musical analogy, the Biden administration is having a good bit of difficulty finding it’s groove. The groove is established in the rhythm section. In politics, it’s the executive branch.
The tangled mess in front of Biden is the continuing drama of COVID-19, the Delta variant, and whatever variant looms ahead. In the mix is the immigration mess, the racial tension mess, the political polarization mess, the economy mess, the national debt mess, the climate change mess and of course the 2022 midterm election mess.
Nobody in Washington seems to be able to find the beat. One, rest, three, rest. And, America needs a rest. Clearly, Biden needs to slow the tempo. Playing all the notes on the staff at the same time in fits and starts makes for an unpleasant, tangled mess composition.
As Democrats struggle to help Biden untangle the messes, they must be thinking about 2024. A fly fishermen faced with such tangles would simply cut the line and tie on a new leader.
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