Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Congress - Self-Satisfied Smiles and a Lot of Boohoohooing

I managed to get in a few minutes of the first 10o hours, and it was hilarious. (Was it just a coincidence that Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was aired a couple of nights ago?)

The only parts I saw were the Representative from Massachusetts talking about the changes to the House ethics rules, such as ending K Street, barring lobbyists from locker rooms, disallowing travel on corporate jets. There was a special glow about all the Dem speakers' heads, probably the glisten of sweat generated from the exercise of long-underused cheek and mouth muscles.

Then Dreier and his colleagues got up to boohoohoo about how they had already made changes to ethics rules, and why is the implementation being postponed until March 1, "It's an outrage that we have to wait two whole months for meaningful ethics changes!" Bwahahaha!!!

But the most amusing part was how, after the second time the Dems were chastised for not making it illegal for members of the House to keep what they made from bribes -- though the Dem already said that was legislation, not a simple rule change that they were dealing with at the moment (the Repub actually said the first 100 hours were a failure because of the failure to deal with this issue; yeah, that's right, the first 100 hours are a failure after less than 24 hours) -- the Dem said, "I know I'm from Massachusetts and my accent makes me hard to understand, but as I said, we will be dealing with that issue, which must be legislated. Perhaps the gentleman's aides could help him understand how that works."

I remember those kinds of snide comments and bulldozing over the opposition for twelve years while the Repubs were in charge. And I don't mind so much hearing such exchanges when they are humorous and not too mean, like in British Parliament. But, after putting the boys to bed, I came back down to hear Dreier talking about how he will try to always comport himself with the kind of dignity and respect expected in that chamber. Sigh.

Come on, robust speech is what we've needed in our Congress for a long time, the kind you do get in British Parliament. We need people who feel a passion about a subject speaking with great passion. Clever repartee, bon mots and ripostes are a sign of intelligence and courage, which is sorely needed in Congress. You've got to be smart to come up with a good rejoinder done well, and you've got to be confident in your ability to deal with the subject and take what the other side may give.

And if everything is treated with the same level of emotion -- whether quiet dignity or, like Ted Stevens -- raging crankiness, how are we supposed to know when to take a subject very seriously? If we'd had a Congress filled with clever, courageous people who will speak what they believe to be the truth, damn the consequences, then if those people had gotten up and spoke with great passion against the Iraq invasion (as finally, finally Senator Byrd did in the last hours before the invasion) we might have had a different recent history.

If we had people in the media who were clever and courageous, not over-sensitive and over-serious about themselves and their careers, and consequently unserious about doing the job we expect of them while trying to exude a false gravitas in comportment with their positions of dignity and respect in journamalism, we also would have had a very different recent history.

Why do people wonder at the growing popularity of us upstart bloggers and the reactions of the establishment we challenge? We think we're clever and courageous. We act like we're clever and courageous, especially hidden behind the anonymity of our online pseudonyms. It doesn't necessarily make us clever and courageous, (or right) but we're a damn sight closer than the openly craven and cowardly performances of many of the guardians of our public institutions.

But even if, in the long run, it turns out our britches were far too large for us, I know that, by striving to act with dignity and respect, not to rooms under in the Capitol Dome or the men and women who stand in them, but to truth, we are pushing the established authority figures to react to us, to become what is in demand and cool; to become clever and courageous, and speak the truth as they know it, to mock obvious and obscure lies.

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