“What have you been reading?” I asked Big Freddy as I squeezed into my side of the booth.
“The newspaper,” Freddy said.
“That gag’s beneath you,” I said.
“No, it’s the bench that’s beneath me,” he said.
“Enough,” I said. “I take it you’re in a bad mood.”
“Not at all,” Freddy said. “As a matter of fact, I am in a very good mood because the donkey and the elephant down in Washington are grazing together, and you have to wonder whether what’s going on in Rome isn’t spreading.”
“Pope Francis getting rid of the pomp and circumstance?” I asked. “What does that have to do with Washington?”
“A real shocker, and hundreds of thousands are lapping it up,” Freddy said. “You have to hope feeling good about something different is contagious.”
“That’s a stretch,” I said.
“Stretching is good for the circulation,” Freddy said.
“Never mind the party thing. Take a good look at how voters really feel about Congress. It’s the Hatfields and McCoys, those good old mountain boys down in Kentucky who kept shooting each other for years. That’s been going on between the two parties for too long.
“Democrats rule the Senate; Republicans have the House. All they’ve been able to come up with has been a bad case of political lockjaw with the national debt out of sight and still climbing.
“There’s been nothing but bad news for getting together on anything, which — I have just been reading — and surprise, surprise — they just approved the budget without so much as a by your leave from Obama who wanted no part of slash the cash.”
“The spending cuts,” I said.
“More than just the cuts,” Freddy said. “They did it without Republicans having to make concessions.”
“By kicking the can down the road again,” I said.
“Eyes of the beholders on both sides for that, because there’s always tomorrow,” Freddy said. “Nobody’s making a fuss because it keeps government in business at least to the end of the fiscal year.”
“So, happy-happy all around ?” I asked.
“More of a breather,” Freddy said. “Locking spending cuts to the end of the year takes some of the heat off. Republicans get something to feel good about because they didn’t have to give up anything.
“Obama got nothing he wanted, but there’s always tomorrow when he gets another time at bat. Democrats take back the House and keep the Senate in 2014, he gets what he needs for the remainder of his presidency.
“What’s coming down the road are the budgets for that. Republicans want to deep six the deficit by 2023, and cut and slice is not what Democrats have in mind.”
“So, the more things change, the more they stay the same,” I said.
“Usually,” Freddy said. “But you know what’s said about hope, and there’s a lot of that going around. You don’t think so, look at what’s happening in Rome.”
“Back to basics,” I said.
“Amen to that, and for Washington, too,” Freddy said.
Bill Plante is a Newbury resident and a staff columnist.