Day By Day

Friday, April 22, 2005

Lileks Loses It

James Lileks is angry, and not sounding very rational. He writes:
I’m starting to suspect that the entire Senate should be abolished. Purge the lot of ‘em.
Right James, and what exactly would justify this radical constitutional change?
Their drivel may be no less meretricious than their House counterparts, but it’s usually slathered with sanctimony about the Noble Nature of their particular chamber, how they’re the saucer into which passions are poured to cool. (By “cool,” they often mean “frozen to the consistency of a glacier layer laid down when the Bourbons were still a going concern.”) Such airs!
So they're a bunch of silly, sanctimonious, pretentious, anal sphincters..., so what? If you don't want your gorge to rise, don't look into the sausage factory.

He seems to think that today's Senate is particularly repulsive.
But the Senate, as currently composed, seems to attract people who have that potent & fatal combination of dimness and self-regard, and when you elevate those sorts to the Great National Saucer, you get idiocies like the Bolton hearing. On one side, a charmless babbler like Joe Biden, whose instinct upon finding a bad metaphor is to attenuate it until it is three microns wide; on the other side, George Voinovich, who finally showed up for a hearing and pronounced himself Disturbed by the allegations. This is like a guy skipping class on the origins WW2 for a month then raising his hand to ask why they haven’t covered how this Hitler fellow came to power.
Yes, of course, Biden is a red, rosy, reverberating, rectum [to use a phrase an ex-Marine friend of mine was fond of using] but the people of Delaware seem to find him adequate; and Voinovich is a craven..., what's the word..., oh yeah, "politician" who seeks to find a position that won't offend his constituents. Imagine that!
I am not impressed by those who want to shiv Bolton to collect a scalp, but that’s their job; I do not understand the useful idiots on the Republican side who want to hand them the knife. (“It’s all sharp the way you like it! Can I come to your party now? I’ll help with the dip and everything.”)
Maybe, just maybe, this isn't what's going on at all. The Democrats are not just collecting scalps; they're interested in far bigger game than the Ambassador to the UN and this is just a preliminary skirmish. There are judicial nominations coming up and they will include justices of the Supreme Court. In preparation the Democrats are trying to create the impression that the Republicans are power mad, unreasonable, absolutely unbending, willing to override normal procedures, and even to shred the constitution. Republicans, understanding this, are loathe to give the Dems an advantage going into the main event. It hurts them not a whit to give the appearance of being reasonable, even complaisant, and willing to compromise. Bolton, to them, is small fish and expendable.
I don’t have to like Bolton, and I certainly don’t approve of his moustache, but I want someone who will stand up to the UN. And by “stand up” I don’t mean the cut-rate back-alley hooker method of leaning against a brick wall and hiking up the skirts. I mean, someone who doesn’t give the Syrian ambassador the old collegial nod in the break room or say “How’s it goin’” to the Zimbabwe attaché when you’re standing at adjoining urinals, and consider it a promising diplomatic overture.
And just what the hell is wrong with a little civility toward people with whom you have to interact on a day to day basis? You don't have to like them, or agree with them, but you should at least try to be decent. Would you rather he did a Jack Nicholson pissing scene like in "Wolf"? [Come to think of it, Nicholson seems to do a lot of pissing in his later films].
There are good & decent people of either party, but they would be more impressive if they took big hard whacks at their colleagues, in public, without fear of seeming “unsenatorial.” If this goes on, “Senatorial” is the last thing they’ll want to be, because the word will by a synonym for blind preening egotism matched only by mulish cluelessness.
Yeah, wouldn't it be great if we had fistfights like they do in Korea, or maybe we could resurrect the revenant spirit of Preston Brooks to stalk the Senate Chamber bearing the holy cane of retribution. Whack! Whack! Aaaaahhh! Feel better now?

And what makes you think things are much different now than they have been in the past. Take some time to read Mark Twain's dispatches from Washington, such as the one in which he describes the Senate as "a slow body, and timid.... All those Senators believe, and have believed for weeks, that... the Government has been swindled..., but they dared not say anything, until their silence at last began to breed the impression among the people that Congress was in the "ring" too...! That has stirred them up a little and two or three Senators have lately made a sort of show of wanting to know something about these frauds." [read it here] Corrupt, dilatory, cowardly, self-important -- not much change there.

The point is, the Senate has always been that way. Read the speeches of nineteenth century Senators, or those from the Twenties, or for that matter any decade, and note the sense of sanctimonious self-importance. It's always been there. Someone, I forget who, observed that after a while in the Senate men invariably stop merely walking and start lumbering along, confident that lesser men will clear a way before them. It's the nature of the institution and always has been. Yet the Republic has survived and prospered, and in no small part due to the fact that the Senate has always been difficult. Someday Hillary or someone like her [actually, nobody's like her, but you know what I mean] will be calling the shots and you will be glad that the Senate is screwing around and playing petty political games rather than advancing her agenda.
Don’t get me started on DeLay.
Me either.

Read Lilek's "Bleat" here. Read it every day. I do. Usually he makes a lot of sense. And while you're at it check out "Joe." You'll be glad you did.


No comments: