Tuesday, October 16, 2007

The Death of Pragmatism in Government

Dick Polman over at the Philadelphia Inquirer spared no one in a recent and scathing denunciation of Congress' recent obsession with symbolic, non-binding resolutions and general inability to actually do anything:

Are we perhaps nearing closure in the latest Washington war of words? Is the left finally ready to chill out, and just let Limbaugh be Limbaugh? Is the right finally ready to move on from MoveOn.org? Has everybody finally applied salve to their purportedly tender sensibilities?

The faux fisticuffs have been flying for weeks. The antiwar group MoveOn twisted Gen. David Petraeus' name into a nasty pun ("General Betray Us"), whereupon conservatives fell into a well-orchestrated swoon and professed to be insulted. Then Rush Limbaugh briefly referred to antiwar Iraq veterans as "phony soldiers," whereupon liberals got the vapors and insisted that Limbaugh's insult was qualitatively worse than MoveOn's insult . . . whereupon some elected Democrats demanded that Congress formally condemn Limbaugh, since it had already formally condemned MoveOn.

I now wish to yield the floor to a citizen named Brian Del Vecchio. He recently posted a comment on the CNN Web site that summed up the current zeitgeist pretty well. Referring to the aforementioned duel of insults, he wrote on Sept. 28: "I am so tired of the umbrage displayed by both sides, as if they're going to faint from disgust. Pansies. Politicians and citizens alike need to grow up and move on and get back to work."

I, for one, would like to join Mr. Polman in commending Mr. Del Vecchio for speaking the words that have been on everyone's minds. I consider myself a fairly diligent student of 20th-century American history, and I know that divided governments have generally been veritable breeding grounds for bipartisanship and compromise. Clearly this has not been the case with the last few Congresses. However, as Mr. Polman has it, it would seem we are not due for any relief soon:

But here's the problem, Brian: These politicians, and their activist enablers, seem to be incapable of doing real work, of actually getting anything done. So instead they stage these contentious shadow plays in which combatants joust over mere words and perpetuate their manufactured outrage via the 24/7 news cycle. It's a good thing we no longer insist on pistols at dawn as a way to resolve an insult; by now, the Mall in Washington would be littered with the bodies of the affronted.

Both sides are happy to play this game. The Democrats don't have the votes, or the guts, or the smarts, to enact any substantive legislation that might actually stop the Iraq war - so they take refuge in symbolic skirmishes (Stop the presses! Rush Limbaugh said something mean!).

As for the Republicans, the last thing they want to do is discuss substance, which might require acknowledging their supine complicity in a disastrous war - so they look for ways to change the subject, most notably by claiming to be shocked, shocked, that their opponents insulted a military man (which is a bit rich, considering how they once insulted Democratic Sen. Max Cleland - a war hero who lost two legs and an arm due to injuries suffered in Vietnam - for allegedly being soft on Osama bin Laden).

Is it any wonder that more than 70 percent of Americans currently dislike the way Congress is doing business?

Or that the same percentage of Americans think this country is headed in the wrong direction?

We, the American people, are calling out for good governance and an end to useless partisanship. Unfortunately, the end to our woes doesn't yet seem to be anywhere in sight. The light at the end of the tunnel remains far-off and obscured as it has for the past several years. These obfuscating phenomena will only continue to drag us down as we attempt to confront the greatest threat to our national security since the fall of the Soviet Union; it is solely in our hands to sweep them away in the name of progress.

It can only be hoped that we and our leaders alike rise to the occasion.

No comments: