Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's Even Worse than It Looks

It’s Even Worse than in Looks, Thomas E Mann and Norman J Ornstein, Basic Books (2012) $26.

News items catch my eye everyday; the words of columnists, too. 

Recently, Vista Republican House member Darrell Issa trumped up yet another falsehood regarding the administration's much maligned roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.  This following his charges about the NSA, the IRS, Benghazi, and concerns that Fruit of the Loom no longer sews fabric tags into their briefs, which probably relates to some form of corruption coming from the White House.

Coincident to that, in response to a Southern California state senator’s travails, Sacramento Bee regular Bruce Maiman opined that the reason corruption is alive and well in the state capital is that the general public doesn’t care about it.

I think Maiman is on to something.  The reason folks throw up their hands in disgust has less to do with the Twitterization of America, reducing every piece of information into 140 character doses, and more to do with being fed up with obstructionist tactics.  Issa's actions are a prime example.

In Worse Than it Looks, (and paraphrasing from page IX) Mann and Ornstein report: On January 26, 2010 the Senate voted on a resolution to create an 18-member deficit-reduction panel in order to fast-track a sweeping plan to resolve our debt crisis.  The resolution was co-authored by Democrats and Republicans including John McCain and Mitch McConnell. But on January 26, the Senate blocked the resolution with McCain and McConnell joining the opposition.  Why?  Because President Obama was for it and its passage might gain him political credit.  That should frustrate the hell out of the average American.  I know it does me.

Initially, I was concerned that Worse was simply a tool by Mann and Ornstein to pillory the Republican Party.  But the further I read, the more I realized their premise was not simply an attack on the GOP – they frame Speaker Boehner’s position as unenviable rather well suggesting that no Speaker in history has had to wrangle with such a deeply divided majority.  Rather, the book is a treatise on how far the radicalization of politics has taken Washington away from its task at hand: Governance.  One-ups-man-ship, disrespect and obstruction has ground Washington to a halt and a weary citizenry, unable to discern information from misinformation, only shows up to vote.  And that’s only about half of us. 

Mann and Ornstein outline the problem, examine false solutions (third party rescues, balanced budget amendments, term limits) and then outline a better course.  And like those news stories and columnists comments, this concluding line caught my eye (paraphrased from page 201):  If the goals of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street are sometimes amorphous, their hangers-on sometimes unsettling, and their means sometimes questionable, they still reflect a broader public desire to get America back on track.

From this I conclude: Somebody wins when those groups can’t find a middle ground.  And that somebody who wins ain’t us.

This is an interesting read; one that warrants a trip to your local independent bookstore.

© 2013
Church of the Open Road Press

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