Where good ideas go to die

System in Washington stacks deck against best lawmakers' ideas
The despair expressed by Jimmy Stewart’s character in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington likely is felt today by members of Congress whose bright ideas for saving our nation get trashed by Washington and the media.

An ultra-conservative Republican senator brought the U.S. Senate to a standstill today with a lengthy and controversial one-man filibuster over what critics are saying is nothing more than a pork-barrel project for Boy Scouts in his home state.


Angry Democrats called Sen. Jefferson Smith’s actions – which included time-wasters such as reading from books and founding documents – a ploy to obstruct progress, cynically using the Boy Scouts for cover.

Spending bills that include food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children program are being held hostage by Smith’s filibuster, endangering many low-income Americans.

The White House condemned Smith’s tactic, while polls indicated Smith was losing the support of voters who want the two parties to compromise and work out their differences.

– How the media today might report on a real-life Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.


You have to wonder: Does a Congress this dysfunctional, a news media this cynical, even deserve good people in Congress?

We hate to be so pessimistic, but we’re in good company: Polls indicate the majority of Americans believe this may be one of the worst Congresses in U.S. history: Only 13 percent of Americans approve of this cadre of lawmakers, an absolute scandal.

If they had anything close to the pride they seem to have, they’d resign in disgrace and embarrassment.

There are good people in Washington, certainly, a lot of them just having been elected last November. But at this point, they’re still far outnumbered by career politicians addicted to the fat living and ego-padding that go with the office.

With the notable and laudable exception of citizen-legislators such as Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Congress has largely become an imperious, impervious ruling class, the likes of which this republic has never seen.

It’s the Catch-22 of the modern Congress: The country desperately needs good people to run for office, but who in his right mind would?

The old romantic vision of Jimmy Stewart as a principled young U.S. senator – winning the day and the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere – just isn’t the case anymore, if it ever was. Today, Washington and the media chew up and spit out principled people and eat their ideas for breakfast.

Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., some months ago proposed commonsense future reforms for Medicare, and was thanked for his trouble by a Democratic television ad portraying him throwing an elderly woman off a cliff. Then, President Obama on Thursday night proposed reforming Medicare. Go figure.

Sen. Coburn recently unveiled a plan to eliminate $9 trillion in overspending in the next decade – and knew in his heart it was dead on arrival because it just made too much sense and required too many difficult choices.

Washington: Where Good Ideas Go To Die.

In a television interview this summer, Coburn neatly, if sorrowfully, summed up the current situation in Washington and why the many special interests who want our money are in near-total control:

“When you get down to the details, people (in Congress) don’t want to make a tough vote because they’ll lose somebody’s support. What we ought to do is not care whether we have somebody’s support; we ought to do what’s best for the country. And that’s what’s not happening.

“I have no doubt that most politicians are self-centered. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be here.”

The bottom line is this: As long as there are no term limits in Congress, Washington will be awash in a series of power trips and ego trips, and we and our children will pay the tab.

The honest Washington character portrayed by Harrison Ford in the movie Clear and Present Danger is told at one point by a cynical colleague, “You are such a Boy Scout.”

Well, we need a few more Boy Scouts in Washington. The question is, do they even stand a chance?

There are a few Mr. Smiths in Washington. But the system – and the entire country, it seems – is allied against them.



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