On the drive home from Indianapolis, I was struck by a particular image of the evening. That was of the look on Speaker Pat "The Hair" Bauer's face (and the similar look on the face of his chief of staff, standing nearby) as the House overwhelmingly defeated the budget a few minutes shy of midnight.
Standing in the gallery of the House as that vote was taken, it was clearly visible to all as the machine tallied the votes and displayed them up on the wall; I'm not sure that the streaming video could convey it well (or the recording of the streaming video). It was not the look of a man in firm command of events. It was not the look of a man in firm command of his caucus.
But, most importantly, it was not the look of a man who was winning, or the look of a man who thought that he would win some political victory by the outcome of this vote.
But the train wreck that was that final vote is in a very real sense a reaped whirlwind of Pat Bauer's own making. His strategy of reflexive obstruction and iron-fisted rule reached its logical conclusion. An ironic conclusion, but a logical one. The obstruction took on a mind of its own, even as the iron-fist of the despot at the speaker's podium sought another course.
Seeing Bauer at the podium and the look upon his face as his schemes came undone reminded me of a familiar poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, which stuck in my mind during the drive home from Indy:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
The Speaker, standing at the podium as the vote was taken, looked out upon the broken ruins of his own works and despaired.