The Questionable Authority

From Paul Kane’s column in today’s WaPo:

Throughout the spring newly empowered Democrats watched their approval ratings plummet, with a liberal base upset at their inability to stop the Iraq war and independents complaining that not enough meaningful legislation was being passed.

Gee, I guess that makes me an independent member of the liberal base, then, because I’m pissed as hell at them for both reasons. They didn’t do enough on Iraq, and I do not for one second accept the weak-assed argument that they couldn’t. That’s just plain bull. Yes, the President vetoed their measure. Yes, they didn’t have the votes to override. Big deal. They didn’t need to override the veto. If the President didn’t sign a bill, the President wasn’t going to get the money. They were holding an ace-high flush. He was showing a pair of twos. They folded anyway.

Their spectacular capitulation on Iraq would be more palatable had they managed to accomplish anything else of note. They have not. Why? Because every time the Republicans threaten them, they drop to their knees and beg for mercy – like they just did in the Senate, with this wiretap legislation. I swear, watching the Democrats in Congress these days reminds me of my dog.

My dog, you see, is a rescued animal. He turned up lying in the middle of a road over on the Windward side of Oahu one night. He was dirty as hell, malnourished, had a bad case of heartworm, and judging by his behavior had been thoroughly beaten on a regular basis. He’s come along nicely since we adopted him. He’s usually a very happy, cheerful animal. But he does tend to drop to the ground in a submissive pose the second he’s faced with anything remotely threatening – including at one point a stuffed animal with a noisemaker. Very much like Congress, really.

Under the circumstances, the surprising thing isn’t that Congress has bad approval numbers; it’s that they’re actually still well above the single digits. For crying out loud, they spent most of yesterday fighting over the minutes from the day before. Given that, I can’t see how anyone who isn’t either a moron or a “the only good government is a totally and completely dysfunctional goverment” libertarian (but I repeat myself) could actually like the job this Congress is doing.


  1. #1 sean
    August 4, 2007


  2. #2 JS
    August 4, 2007

    In fairness to the Democratic congresscritters, it should perhaps be pointed out that when a hostile congress attempts to use the power of the purse against a president, congress usually loses. At least that was the way of things during the Clinton years, and I doubt that Bush’s imperial presidency has improved things much in that respect.

    – JS

  3. #3 Toaster Sunshine
    August 4, 2007

    Our Congress is lame.

    Other countries legislative bodies are cooler. When they’re debating, they actually argue. Sometimes they even fight. I remember not too long ago something about the Malaysian legislature breaking out in a mob fight over a piece of legislation. Some foreign parliamentarians are even prone to doing things like beating their desks with their shoes and shaking their jowls in exasperation at one another. Screaming insults at each other and actually being passionate about their job. Here all we get is a bunch of stuffy old white men sitting around mumbling empty words.

  4. #4 Troublesome Frog
    August 5, 2007


    There’s an important difference here, though. Iraq is a huge money drain. Trying to pass a take it or leave it budget is one thing when you’re faced with government shutdowns and other minor inconveniences. It’s quite another with a situation like Iraq: As soon as you run out of money, the game is over. You can’t have the army in the field just wait around while more money comes when your operating costs are in the hundreds of millions per day. Your only option is to start pulling out.

    That’s not to say that I advocate that particular solution. I just think that if the Democrats really wanted to do it, they could easily have cut off the cash and Bush would have had to give in. Of course, Bush is callous and incompetent enough to try to keep the operation going unfunded for much longer than is safe and prudent, so he may have been able to win that game of chicken. When it’s a game of “Who is willing to kill more of other peoples’ kids” I don’t think that there are many in the US government who could play the game more convincingly than Bush and company.

  5. #5 JS
    August 7, 2007

    Troublesome Frog:

    Your last sentence hit the nail precisely on the head.

    Besides, you can be darned sure that any president will make sure that the last program to be shut down for lack of funding will be whatever hobby horse parliament wanted to shut down in the first place. Tornado relief? Sorry, those crummy Dems in Congress blocked the budget. NIH budgets? Sorry, no money here. Vietraq? Aaah, but that’s essential. For national security, y’see…

    – JS

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