As many of you recall, during the week leading up to the final weekend of the congressional debate regarding the debt crisis with an August 2nd deadline looming, I thought I would take things into my own hands to attempt to resolve the debt crisis. I brought our 1966 classic Good Humor truck filled with thousands of ice cream novelties and parked it close to the Capitol, close enough so members could see it as they looked out their windows.
On Thursday and Friday, July 28th & 29th, I gave out thousands of ice cream novelties to EVERYONE, including Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party members etc. HOWEVER, I excluded all those working on the debt crisis. The sign on our truck said “NO ICE CREAM FOR YOU UNTIL A DEAL IS AGREED TO” (see attached picture of sign and truck). The media was there to cover it and we were in CNN’s Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, CBS TV and WTOP (see links to CNN & CBS)... The world had seen my plan.
My thinking, short sighted as I have now come to realize, was they would look out their windows from the great halls of congress and see everyone eating ice cream and having a great time. They would also see that they were the only ones excluded UNTIL they agreed to a plan. My strategy was holding this over their head would force them to compromise and agree on a plan and avert financial Armageddon. Unfortunately, my scheme worked exactly as I planned and “coincidentally”, an agreement was made over the weekend.
During the subsequent days, I was so proud of myself for, what I believed at the time was single handily resolving the debt crisis (in my spare time no less). I even received a permit from the US Capitol police to fulfill my promise of free ice cream for everyone, INCLUDING those that made the deal happen. On Thursday, August 4th, our ice cream team went right on the Capitol grounds and gave out a few thousand pieces of Ben & Jerry’s and Magnum Bars to everyone, including the dealmakers (see attached picture). I thought the story was over and we had a happy ending.
Then the other shoe dropped. Late Friday, August 5th, Standard & Poors chairman John B. Chambers stated that the United States, for the first time in its history, would lose its prized AAA rating. He went on to say, “The political gridlock in Washington leads us to conclude that policymakers don't have the ability to put the public finances of the U.S. on a sustainable footing” and “The debacle over the debt ceiling continued until almost the midnight hour”.
A strong argument could be made that there was a direct correlation between my ill conceived actions of holding the ice cream over their heads, as a way of luring them into making a deal, and congresses “uncharacteristically irrational and rash agreement”. Putting them into this position just wasn’t fair on my part and I take full responsibility for that. Remember, congress is just a reflection of the American people, except they are smarter and better equipped to solve difficult problems than any of us common folk. After all, we are the people, the ones that voted them into office as our choice of the “best and brightest”. Who among us could say they wouldn’t have done the same thing so they could get their hands on a delicious cold ice cream during a hot Washington summer day?
If I hadn’t made that promise of free ice cream when a deal was done, they wouldn’t have been thinking, “once this deal’s done, should I have a Chocolate Eclair, maybe a Klondike bar, no probably a Cherry Garcia bar……” and instead, they would have been focusing on reducing the debt an additional two trillion dollars. That would have satisfied S&P’s minimum requirements and we would not have been downgraded.
In searching deep into my soul, I am trying to think of the positive that has come from all of this, and it is the following. I am going to start a new tradition in Washington of taking blame and full responsibility for making a big mistake. This is a town of finger pointing and if a finger has to be pointed anywhere; I simply have to look in the mirror. I truly apologize to all my fellow Americans for attempting to resolve a crisis in which we have duly elected officials that are MORE THEN qualified to handle complicated matters like this.