As a family, we drove everywhere on vacation in the family sedan. And on those cramped 8+ hour drives, my two younger sisters and I frequently fought over who got the middle seat. That primo spot offered a little more legroom and the best view straight ahead between the front seats, which was critical for staving off carsickness.
We would bargain, bicker and scream over it. The only way to stop the madness was for my dad to propose an alternative nobody wanted:
"If you don't settle this in the next 30 seconds, I'm turning the car back around and we're not going anywhere."
It's a ridiculous solution to a simple problem, but almost always effective. My dad didn't care who actually sat in the middle seat. He just wanted us to quit fighting over it.
That's the scene that's been popping to mind lately whenever someone likens our dysfunctional Congress to spoiled children. The elephant and the donkey can't agree on a budget, so Papa Prez turns around and proposes an alternative that nobody wants if we can't make up our minds.
But there's one important difference: We never had the option to tell Dad to shove it.
Unlike my father, a U.S. President cannot decide who sits where, and has no authority to turn the car around when Congress is at an impasse.
Remember, the Office of the President can only suggest laws, not make them. Obama cannot pass a budget: He can only propose one. So he can propose sequestration as an undesirable alternative to help force a decision, but your own Congressmen and -women still had to vote that scenario unto themselves.
And they did.
Lately, some pundits and members of Congress have been making a big to-do about the fact that the sequestration idea came from the White House. What gets lost in the finger-pointing is that it doesn't matter whose idea the sequestration was. The whole notion could have come from the mystical interpretation of the pattern of a stray cat's paw prints in the National Sandbox at midnight on the Fall Solstice - and it wouldn't have made a lick of difference.
The fact remains that Congress embraced it fully. Here is the house vote. Here is the Senate vote.
Of course, the whole idea was to avoid it. What shocked everybody is that our elected officials - when faced with the choice between hack-and-slash spending cuts and compromising on a budget - would rather leap squarely onto the third rail, followed by a weeklong session of The Blame Game.
Even as children, we knew it wasn't dad's fault if we ended up back home because of our stubbornness. It actually happened once, and we knew we could only blame ourselves.
Too bad we can't expect as much out of Congress.
For a basic explanation of the sequester and how it came to being, check out The Sequester Explained, an article from the Washington Post.