Elliot: Draining the Swamp, virtually

Many are culled, but few wear hosen. For golf, anyway.


DI columnist Beau Elliot

Beau Elliot, Columnist

Ah, the Swamp. Not just any old swamp but the Swamp. Bane of our existence.

As Shelley put it: “… Power, like a desolating pestilence,/Pollutes whate’er it touches; and obedience,/Bane of all genius, virtue, freedom, truth,/Makes slaves of men, and of the human frame/A mechanized automaton …”

Washington, in other words. In somewhat shorter form.

But yes, the Swamp. So many politicians, of all ilk of aisles and isles, head off for Washington promising to drain the Swamp. Mostly, as we have come to know, they wind up merely mucking about, mire or sans mire.

Part of the reason that politicians — and many, many normal people — think of the District as the Swamp no doubt derives from the popular belief that Washington was built on a swamp.

Well, you have to admit it fits: muck, mire, noxious gases, ne’er-do-wells bent on nefarious practices, etc. And then some more etcs. for the next generation. And the next.

It’s a nice story, mostly because it makes nice people in the hinterlands feel, well, nice. Like Iowa nice.

But. As with so many perfect beliefs that most hold to be true about U.S. history, it’s wrong. Washington was not built on a swamp; it was built on the hills and hillsides overlooking the Potomac.

At least that’s what Professor Emeritus Carl Abbott wrote in the Smithsonian Magazine. One thing we’ve learned about professors emeritae or emeriti is that whatever mistakes they were going to make they’ve already made, so you can believe what they say without donning a faux skeptical attitude. Which is good. It’s incredibly taxing wearing a faux skeptical attitude around all the time. It’s hot. And it chafes at the collar.

So, no physical swamp to drain. Maybe it’s some metaphysical thingo or dingo. Although that would make thingos or dingos a tad too complicated for everyday life. Just try it some time. You’ll wind up a philosophy grad student.

Probably, draining the swamp is one of those oh-so-popular social constructs, somewhat like Red Sox fan-Yankee fan, cat person-dog person, mitosis versus karyokinesis (better known as karaoke), and, of course, the ever-present this race or that race.

Luckily for us, we think (therefore we are not, as existence goes these days) Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp as he bellowed into office. Speaking of social constructs.

So how do things look, swamp-wise. Given that the swamp seems wiser than humans.

Well, there were all those early Cabinet appointees who seemed to think that taxpayer dollars were meant to be used as an ATM. Kind of like Trump and his “foundation.”

You know, for such items as traveling to watch an eclipse from the best vantage point, traveling to Europe to find the best vacation vantage point, renovating an office to appreciate the best vantage point on hardwood décor. The important things in life.

Then there’s what Boston Globe’s Teresa Hanafin has labeled Trump’s golf tax for the American people: $106 million in not quite 2.5 years.

That’s what it costs taxpayers for Trump’s much needed golf-therapy respites from the rigors of bellowing and tweeting. Or $121,839 a day. Not bad for a day’s worth of respite.

Remember when private citizen Trump roundly criticized President Obama for daring to take one golf vacation?

That’s OK. No one else does, either.

Turns out, memory is also a social construct. We think that George Orwell said that. First, perhaps.

Who can remember?