Friday, March 30, 2007

Mr. Smith Would Hate Washington

At this time last week I was discussing intimate details with two congressional staffers about their occupations and freshman boss (from a state that shall remain unnamed).

It's a little creepy. The truth.

They were exhausted from a day on The Hill when roughly 70 amendments were made to a spending bill. To paraphrase their paraphrase, it went something like this: Republicans would get up and say, "let's cut (insert name) taxes." Then it would be voted down. Democrats would get up and say, "let's find a way to fund (insert cause)." Then it would be voted down.

The other impressive thing they've noticed is in two parts. The first is the alarming absence of any senator on the senate floor during "the speeches." Seriously, watch CSPAN some time, you'll see what I mean. They are never there. Where are they? Meeting with constituents and lobbyists and attending committee and sub-committee hearings. Two, and no big shock, they don't write their own speeches. They are written by twenty-somethings who paw through old speeches and pull quotes. At least, hat is what this twenty-something told me, who spent the better part of the day pawing through old speeches and pulling quotes. What I found more interesting is that the senator (maybe it was a congressman) didn't even see the speech until 15 minutes before curtain. Strange.

Those speeches are aimed not at influencing the other senators or congressmen (because they aren't in the chamber), but instead to look good for the small-town paper "back home."

This explains why so many speeches are dispassionate before the latest catch phrase that toes the party line: because the twenty-something does not want to be fired. The greatest show on earth, folks. Democrazy in action.

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