Off the road but back in gridlock

So you’re probably wondering where I’ve been the last few weeks and whether I was ever coming back.

For the 99 percent of you who appreciate the words in this space, you can breathe freely again.

For the other 1 percent, too bad. Your dreams of a new fill-in-the-blank-topia haven’t come true.

Of course, I was merely on vacation, road trip style, in the classic all-American Clark Griswold tradition that all families with young kids should embark upon every couple years or so.

You haven’t truly lived until you’ve driven for eight hours three days straight flinging granola bars, Pringles and bargain bin DVDs into the back seat while seeing how many more miles you can log after the first time they say they have to go to the bathroom. (Do you see a town here? Unless you want to share a tumbleweed with the jackrabbits and roadrunners, you’re gonna have to wait.)

This year, we made a circle route from California to Colorado, through the high deserts of Arizona to the Continental Divide, where the roads are open, the cops are scarce and you can find motel rooms for as little as 38 bucks a night if you don’t mind wall-to-wall black mirrors and astrologically themed carpeting. (It was a casino in Nevada.)

One of the best things about road trips like this is that I always get severely out of touch with the news, which means I get a break from listening to the right-wing do-nothings in Congress try to justify their misguided existence.

The same was true this year, until I caught a snippet of Obama at one point, fretting over the impending debt limit deadline.

Now, I’m back at work, and the debt limit talks have reached a near-doomsday pitch, with Obama and the Democrats, who control two-thirds of the power structure, trying to engineer a balanced approach of cuts and new revenues that won’t need to be redone in six months, and the Republicans, who control one-third, acting like the American government is their own little fiefdom, no compromise allowed.

Much of this is the fault of the new freshman class in the House, which is using John Boehner as its whipping boy.

Boehner has the unenviable job of trying to productively advance the business of governing the country while dealing with a bunch of feet-in-the-mud GOP newbies who answer only to God and the tea party.

As a result, we get foolishness like this from first-term Rep. Jeff Landry of Louisiana: “When there is this type of pressure, I do what I was taught to do: I get on my knees and I ask for some understanding and some leadership.”

That’s great. Here’s a better idea: Stand up and do some work. How about that?

We don’t need Jesus to solve the debt crisis. We need mature, thoughtful adults capable of give and take.

Or there’s freshman Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina, who wants the country to know he and his ilk aren’t the boneheads they appear to be: “We’re not a bunch of knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing Neanderthals.”

I don’t know Gowdy and he may be a smart guy, but I’m not totally convinced.

The other big news we had recently was the terror attack by the nut in Norway who bombed a government building and gunned down 68 people at a camp for young political activists.

By any sane account, these were bright, engaged Norwegians participating in a program that has taught lessons about democracy for more than 60 years.

By the account of one moron, they may have been “like Hitler Youth.”

That speculation came from Glenn Beck, who makes me embarrassed not only to be an American, but to be a human being period.

“Who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics?” blathered the idiot TV and radio personality, once again engaging the flycatcher that passes for his mouth ahead of the pea-sized gray matter that passes for his brain.

Talk about knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing Neanderthals.

The Republican freshmen in the House may have evolved past that point.

The same can’t be said for Glenn Beck.

Joe Tarica is the presentation editor at The Tribune and writes the Joetopia blog at Reach him at