The Year in Verse

by Fred Schwarz

It was a fourth-quarter comeback for the ages.

What an annus mirabilis, 2013 —
With dramatic reversals like we’ve never seen!
Back in January, the whole world was Obama’s;
Now his comeback hopes rest on a boy in pajamas.
When he stoutly held firm on the dread fiscal cliff
And the GOP caved, it was looking as if
He might even demolish the second-term jinx
And have plenty of spare time to spend on the links.
You might say it was just like a Sorkin production
As Republicans keenly pursued self-destruction
And turned on each other; in fact, for a while they
Stabbed so many backs, House of Cards looked like child’s play.
But then came Obamacare, and soon it was clear:
His October surprise would be painful this year.
Now he’s down in the dumps, and not much can console him
When Dubya and Carter and Nixon outpoll him.

Pope Francis and guns and the fearsome sequester
Were much in the news in the year’s first trimester.
Ben Carson’s address earned conservatives’ plaudits;
From libs he got brickbats – and IRS audits.
Then NSA spying, surveillance, and PRISM
Gave rise, on both sides, to a bellicose schism.
Obama and Kerry made feeble excuses
And swore it would only be put to good uses,
Explaining, in words we would hear and then rehear:
“It’s just metadata; there’s nothing to see here.”
(Though soothing a furious Angela Merkel
Turned out to be harder than squaring the circle.)
Meanwhile, their attempts to bring peace to the Syrians
Soon faded, like Question Mark and the Mysterians,
And they dangled a modified ban at Tehran,
Leaving realists to wonder what planet they’re on.

Back home, opposition seemed easy to handle
By letting it burn itself out, like a candle.
When Rubio tried easing the life of the alien
The base made him turn red, just like phenolphthalein.
Paul spoke 13 hours, with no cornpone filler,
Describing the threat of an airborne drone killer,
But since few feared their murderers might be robotic,
The cognoscenti wrote him off as quixotic.
When Cruz warned the ACA wasn’t sustainable
And wanted to make a CR unobtainable,
He out-speechified Paul, and was startled to find
All the voters behind him — a long way behind.
So as pundits and factions continued to bicker
The layers of rhetoric kept getting thicker,
And while everyone searched for their names in This Town,
No agreement was reached, and the government shut down.

Now Repubs faced the hardest fight of their careers —
Regrettably, though, it was with GOPers.
With the rebels content to let Washington burn,
Moderates wondered which way they should turn.
Their enthusiasm was a long way from hearty
For joining the Kool-Aid — I mean, the Tea — Party
But most were equally far from amenable
To muddling through, which they knew was untenable.
As the shutdown dragged on and the party grew weaker,
Hard-liners and budget hawks said the House speaker
Sold his principles out for a small mess of pottage;
He replied that their brains were distinctly low-wattage.
When Ted Cruz was feeling especially dissed, he
Responded by damn-with-faint-praising Chris Christie.
And Obama sat happily watching it all . . .
But one thing he forgot: After summer comes fall.

October the First saw the opening of
The ACA’s centerpiece,,
And within a few days of its being unveiled
Big-state liberalism had all but derailed.
Spending close to a billion in taxpayer cabbage
on a website that seemed to be built by Charles Babbage
Bought a jury-rigged mess that had never been tested —
On this a whole nation’s insurance plans rested.
Obama, undaunted, renewed his sales pitches
And wrote the huge IT fail off as just “glitches,”
But those who worked 20-hour days trying to fix it
Were far from impressed by his blithe ipse dixit
And still less by the stream of Panglossian blarney
Put forth by endearingly clueless Jay Carney.
Even Edsall admitted we’d all been misled
And soon no one believed what the president said.

But the website was just the beginning, we found,
As the law’s parlous, rickety structure unwound.
HHS staff kept frantically putting out fires,
Such as cancellations way outnumbering new buyers
And the massive increase in our Medicaid bill
And the seniors required to insure for the Pill.
Now your data’s as safe as Iraq — every day
A pajama-clad hacker can play NSA —
And try getting a break for your sky-high deductible
From a less understanding MD than Cliff Huxtable.
Plus there’s no way to pay for the plan that you choose —
But besides these few flaws, it’s so easy to use!
As the press, feeling frisky, uncovers new cases,
Barack tweaks the law with unsanctioned ukases,
Yet the young aren’t buying, which before long could spoil it
And send the whole financial scheme down the toilet.

When Obama bestrode the world like a Colossus
He thought that it gave him a license to boss us
And most of America flocked to his side
But things turn around fast — ain’t that right, Crimson Tide?
Now the wingers and moderates once more are friends —
No perpetual haggling about means and ends
Or rehashing of who treated who like a peon;
We’ve finally found something we all can agree on.
Can chastened Republicans retake the Senate
While cleaving to every conservative tenet?
Win some more House seats too, and make each Representative
A force for reform who’ll be bold and not tentative?
Can the right and the center unite for this task?
(Well, OK, never mind; that’s just too much to ask.)
Still, one maxim of guidance remains through it all:
United we stand, and divided we fall.

— Fred Schwarz is a deputy managing editor of National Review.