Let me start with a clear statement of the premise of this post: the political behavior of both politicians and we the people has become downright abysmal, and it threatens our future.

Start with the politicians. We have members of Congress who cannot bring themselves to acknowledge that President Obama is constitutionally qualified to be president. Literally cannot get the words to come out of their mouths. Others who cannot bring themselves to rebuke Rep. Wilson for his unambiguous violation of the House code of conduct. Still others who cannot bring themselves to rebuke Rep. Grayson for his characterization of Republican healthcare plans as, “don’t get sick” – and if you do, “die quickly.” We have Sarah Palin out there fanning the “death panels” flames. We have Rep. Franks declaring that our president is “an enemy of humanity” who has “no place in any station of government.”

Why is this? This is done because it sells tickets, i.e., it generates political support and votes. It’s good for business among the political set. Does anyone of serious mind actually doubt the president’s constitutional qualifications?  Or that that Wilson, Grayson, Palin or Frank were out of line? Have you ever heard anyone express support for these politicians’ actions who isn’t also ideologically aligned with them? You have not. Ideological blinders are an absolute prerequisite to seeing these any of these actions as justified, or intellectually honest, or in any way creditable.

And, that’s where we the people come in. We buy this stuff. We soak it up. We love it. If you are an obscure South Carolina or Florida congressman or a small state governor or whoever, this stuff works. It works politically. You get more donations. You get bigger tiny crowds at your appearances. You get more votes. In the end, you get re-elected.

Where does all of this lead us? To the state of affairs in Congress today. Congress, particularly the House of Representatives, is among the most disdained and reviled institutions in the land. Various polls show an overall approval rating of Congress in the mid twenties percent range. If you or I set out with boundless determination to ruin our reputations, it would take a miracle to earn the disgust of so many.

We are caught in an ever-worsening feedback loop. Politicians on the right disconnect further and further from reality, become more and more willing to abandon all reasonable standards of discourse — and are rewarded with money and votes from an increasingly marginalized right wing electorate. And in turn: Politicians on the left disconnect further and further from reality, become more and more willing to abandon all reasonable standards of discourse — and are rewarded with money and votes from the left wing electorate. (I omit “increasingly marginalized” for the left wing only because it is in the ascendancy now; five years ago, it would have been reversed, and it will reverse again.)

Here is why this matters. There are real issues to be confronted by our government. We live in times which require thoughtful, forward-thinking, fresh, creative and wise leadership. But we punish those who are thoughtful, forward-thinking, fresh, creative and wise. We are left with a big bunch of losers, play-acting at being “Congressmen” and “Congresswomen.” I cringe to think that this generation in Congress will be the ones to decide how to handle healthcare policy, or energy policy, or environmental policy, or economic policy, or fiscal policy, or any other important policy. Frankly, I would cringe equally whether it was Pelosi or Boehner with a 256 – 177 majority and the task of crafting the thoughtful, forward-thinking, fresh, creative and wise legislation these issues demand.

Just remember, though: it is not their fault. We voted for them. We sought out and got exactly the kind of rhetoric-filled, ideologically blinded Congress we wanted. Good luck with that, America.


Sen. Gregg has withdrawn his name for consideration as Secretary of Commerce, citing “irresolvable conflicts” with the Obama administration. And I don’t think anyone out there would describe the stimulus package’s path through Congress as a smooth one. Why is Obama having all this trouble?

There is the obvious reason: the establishment Washingtonians are not ready to disarm from twenty years of sharp-elbowed partisanship. Nancy Pelosi has been exploiting the Obama victory to push a left wing agenda which rivals anything from the Lyndon Johnson years. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are perfectly content to veer hard to the right, capitalizing on any minority party’s luxury of not having to govern, and acting as if the current crisis somehow results from the past eight years being not enough Bush-ish.

Into this viper pit comes President Obama, hopefully (naively?) believing that his election victory, seen by him as a national outpouring of sentiment for a new political sensibility, will somehow crack these hardboiled eggs. He offers up a plan rich in both Republican and Democratic plums; in his view, he started with the bipartisan compromise. He checked disingenuity at the door. And the hyenas came howling from both sides.

No wonder the ride is bumpy.

Then there is a second reason for the turbulence, a far more terrifying reason. Maybe he is wrong. Even the most die-hard Obama supporters surely must gulp in anxious worry about the sheeer magnitude of this plan. He showed up at the poker tournament, and on the very first hand went all-in on a huge pot… using all of our retirement money. And this time, there is no mini-cam looking up through the table. I can’t tell if he’s holding pocket aces, or nine / deuce off suit. He is making a huge gamble, and the markets know it. International economies know it. And whether we supported or opposed his candidacy, we all know it too.

No wonder the ride is bumpy.