'Twas the Night Before Christmas ... in Washington, D.C.

In which Santa expresses his disappointment with America's politicians.

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A man portraying Santa Claus sits in a mall in South Portland, Maine on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Andrew Chesnut, the Bishop Walter F. Sullivan Chair in Catholic Studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, said depictions of Santa Claus as a white man came about mainly because he was a European import, a blend of the Dutch Sinterklaas and British folklore character Father Christmas, with elements of Saint Nicholas, a 4th-century Greek bishop in modern-day Turkey.
'Tis the night before Christmas in Washington, D.C.

Politics should stop at the garland's edge. Such is the message of innumerable advice columnists, encouraging folks to table the political talk at holiday gatherings in the interest of familial peace.

But political obsessives see in the season not a recess but a rich opportunity. The carols, poems and stories are far too tempting for wags to resist. Political parodies and satires have become something of a holiday ritual. Paul Shanklin, song parodist for the Rush Limbaugh Show, has an entire album of Christmas songs, including "A Jimmy Carter Christmas Memory." Mike Huckabee's "Twelve Days of Obamacare" premiered on Fox News last week, and Huffington Post contributor Rick Horowitz has just posted his annual political carols.

[ 2013: The Year in Cartoons]

The tradition has been around for years, somewhat more prevalent in conservative circles than liberal ones. For decades National Review's in-house poet, W.H. von Dreele, penned Yuletide rhymes to suit the times. His Watergate-era offering started: "'Twas the night before Christmas, and Rose Mary Woods / Was erasing like mad to deliver the goods." And for Christmas 1993, when Hillary Clinton was at work on health care reform, he composed this ditty:

"O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree,

What's Hillary been making?

In rooms that offer privacy

She's got the patients quaking.

Would her reforms relieve us from

Deductibles that leave us numb,

Or should she make the Hoover hum

And do some cookie baking?"

A good reminder of conservative attitudes toward Hillary Clinton in the 1990s, for those looking forward to 2016.

[ See a collection of political cartoons on the government shutdown.]

Consider the above history an attempt to justify another contribution to the genre: "A Washington Visit from St. Nick." With apologies to … well, everyone.

'Tis the night before Christmas, and all through D.C.

Not a cloture's occurring, 'tis still as can be.

Some bills have been passed, neatly stacked, clearly labeled

Then sent to the House and instantly tabled.

The leaders are nestled in bars with their beers

To toast the most inactive Congress in years.

 The White House is bustling with aides who still truck

With the notion Obama's not yet a lame duck.

When out on the Mall there erupts such a clatter,

They rush from their desks to see what is the matter.

 Away to their windows they fly in a flitter,

To check out the action, then share it on Twitter.

The glow of their phones on the new-fallen snow,

Gives a luster of midday to objects below,

When what then appear like great apparitions,

But an irate St. Nick and eight politicians.

While the pols look around, a little perplexed,

The onlookers all take a pause from their texts.

For the old elf's eyes flash with a furious flame,

As he paces, and shouts, and calls them by name:

"Ted Cruz and Issa! Obama and Weiner!

Paul Ryan! John Thune! And Stutzman and Boehner!

I've brought you all here to account for yourselves.

Your behavior this year has confounded my elves.

They know how to make every game, toy, and treat.

But the lists we've received make that all obsolete.

We're wizzes at handling all sorts of appeals,

But we can't beef up Head Start or fund Meals on Wheels.

World leaders are begging me for untapped phones,

While children are asking for skies free of drones."

His brow furrows deep at the thought of their trauma

And then, like a flash, he turns on Obama.

"Magic works wonders – its power is stunning.

But not even it can get your website running."

"You tell 'im, old man," Stutzman shouts with delight.

Santa turns, eyebrow arched: "I'd hoped you'd be contrite.

You and Thune cut off funds for the poor and rejected,

Then shut down DC 'cause you felt disrespected."

Stutzman, abashed, steps back in his place

Then Ryan comes forward, a smile on his face

His smile – how disarming! his face, rosy-cheeked!

His dimples – how charming! His hair, widow-peaked!

"I suspect you've not heard, sir, but I can reveal:

We've worked out a last-minute end-of-year deal."

Claus rolls his eyes. "I know children, remember:

Naughty all year 'til it hits mid-December.

With the election year past the future seemed bright:

You had a grand chance to start the year right,

With the threat of sequester, like an Elf on the Shelf,

To make you do good in spite of yourself.

But you let it take hold 'stead of wheeling and dealing,

Shut down the government, wrecked the debt ceiling –"

"But wait!" Weiner cries, "they've all earned your disdain,

But me, I've done nothing to add to this pain."

Claus gives him a look that betrays disbelief:

"You, my dear Carlos, are the comic relief."

He then dresses them down with great vim and verve:

"This isn't the government people deserve.

I'd fill up your stockings with rocks but I know

Tomorrow I'd see ads saying 'Santa's pro-coal!'

So instead," the elf says to the men on the Mall,

"A public rebuke seems the best gift of all."

And with the air thick with his final dismissals

He springs to his sleigh, which appears when he whistles.

And they hear his last wish, as he drives out of sight —

"Someday may they get democracy right."