August 5th, 2020


Nancy, Donald, stop with the 'I know you are, but what am I?'

John Kass

By John Kass

Published Jan. 21, 2019

  Joshua Roberts for Bloomberg
If there's one question that is sure to drive Americans insane — to the point of ramming red-hot pokers through their eardrums — it's a national battle of "I know you are, but what am I?"

It was something worthy of Pee Wee Herman, until the beloved character of children's television fame was caught allegedly exposing himself in a porno theater.

Be that as it may, the new champions of "I know you are, but what am I?" have revealed themselves:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Donald Trump.

And they're playing it with the federal government.

You may remember how it goes. One kid on one corner. Another kid on the other corner. An insult is thrown, and the response is "I know you are, but what am I?"

And they don't shut up. They go on for hours in reedy singsong voices, some shift over to "I'm rubber, you're glue," but it always reverts to the central core of "I know you are."

So, stoke the coals and make ready the red-hot pokers.

It's all about the shutdown.

Trump and Republicans want federal money for a wall on the southern border. Democrats, who supported a wall years ago, hate the idea now that Trump is president.

Trump won't reopen the federal government until they give him the money. Pelosi won't give him the money. Shutdown.

She disinvites him from giving his State of the Union address to the House. Because of the shutdown. She said security would be an issue.

Pelosi sounded as if she was outlining the pilot episode of "Designated Survivor," a ridiculous TV soaper that leaves us with President Kiefer Sutherland doing a lot of sighing after terrorists blow up the Capitol during a State of the Union speech and all that's left are cinders and tears.

In response, Trump cancels the military plane that would have taken Pelosi to Brussels, Egypt and Afghanistan for a photo op with the troops.

Because of the shutdown.

"One sophomoric response does not deserve another," tweeted South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Oh, really? It doesn't?

"In light of the 800,000 great American workers not receiving pay, I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is totally appropriate," Trump wrote to Pelosi in a letter. "I also feel that, during this period, it would be better if you were in Washington negotiating with me and joining the Strong Border Security movement to end the Shutdown."

I can't say anyone wins here except reporters like me.

Naturally, the furloughed federal workers don't like it. Yes, they'll get their back pay when they return to work — they always do — but the longer they sit out as "nonessential" employees, the greater the chance taxpayers might figure out they're really not all that essential after all.

And then what?

But reporters love it. An endless "I know you are, but what am I" is an easy story to tell. She said, he said. Blah, blah, blah, the Congress is finally asserting its authority over the executive, blah, blah.

It's hard to think when those damn kids keep shouting "I know you are …" at each other.

Personally, I hate the State of the Union speech and so I'm thankful that Pelosi tried to kill it.

Nancy? I kiss your hands.

It's boring. The president walks into the House with the cry, "Mr./Madam Speaker, the President of the United States!" and then the president makes promises and offers platitudes.

And the politicians of the president's party applaud. And the other party sits on their hands. Guests are singled out from the visitor's gallery, with heartwarming Hallmark card sentimental stories that reinforce the president's view. They're human props.

Democrat, Republican, it really doesn't matter. What makes it worse is that TV journalists treat it with a hushed reverence and respect, but all it is, really, is a TV show. And they talk and talk and talk.

As many of you know, the State of the Union at one time was written down in a presidential letter. Then, in 1913, President Woodrow Wilson arrogantly decided to make a big speech of it.

A few years after that, little children would sing a song, unrelated to the State of the Union speech but related to Wilson:

I had a little bird,

Its name was Enza.

I opened the window,

And in-flu-enza

That's because the arrogant Wilson was deemed by some responsible for helping spread the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918 that killed tens of millions of people.

And if you don't believe me, look it up.

But let's get back to the arrogant Pelosi and the arrogant Trump.

The Democratic Media Complex supports Pelosi and opposes the shutdown, because anyone who'd dare shut down government is a heretic. And Trump is deemed the ogre in all this.

The adoration of Pelosi was intense even before Trump canceled her military flight and invited her to fly commercial.

"She's satin and steel," a Democrat gushed of Pelosi in "Politico." "She's just a badass," said another Democrat.

Of course she's all that: Badass, mastermind, Captain Marvel, that's Nancy Pelosi for you. Now add "sainted" to the list, because, well, she's Nancy of Arc.

It'll get worse before it gets better.

Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Best two out of three. No, wait, best five out of seven. No, wait …

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John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune who also hosts a radio show on WLS-AM.