We don't deserve them

What an amazing session. To watch and listen to the 10+ hour session and the debates, one could have a sense of how truly difficult it is for a bill to pass – much less anything as important, historic or intelligible. It is no wonder that it took more than one hundred years to pass a health care bill that will have such dramatic and direct impact on every American’s* life.

While the celebrity stars of the drama will get the appreciation (or vitriol) of the political junkies and news and opinion readers, I believe it is time to acknowledge those who do not – those long-suffering, unsung Congresspeople, so often scorned, forgotten and reelected.

It is truly amazing what they do for their measly $174,000 salary. To work so many late nights, Saturdays and Sundays. To endure the long hours of stifling boredom and suffer the almost unending pedantic speeches of their opponents waiting patiently for their yielded seconds in the spotlight to utter these memorable words, “I ask for unanimous consent to revise and extend my remarks in support (or opposition) to this flawed health bill” – strategically determining as they read the request whether to embellish it and have their side charged with a five-second penalty.**

Enduring the uncomfortable shoes and suits of the dress code, our elected leaders are always ready to gadfly their dear friends across the aisle, or rise to express their moral indignation (with hope it can be used in a future campaign spot) using the lexicon of today’s talking points in support or against whatever rule, motion or point of order – never forgetting to mention a poignant email or lesson learned from devoutly humble (Christian, hard working, common sense, heroic, victim, or folk wise) role models, which they hope will make them seem almost human and somehow connected to what is important to actual or imagined people, living or dead.

How they can even stand up under the extra weight of the devil of ready contributors representing special interests on one shoulder and the angel of protecting our democracy and representing what is best for the people on the other, is beyond my capacity to understand. I am humbled and grateful for the enormous weight of responsibility they bear for our country and those who pay for their campaigns.

To stay awake, seem sober, and maintain electable posture while not confusing the moments when they are to smile and the moments they are to seem serious (anyone remember when Lindsay Graham inadvertently clapped for President Obama during the State of the Union?); to sound thoughtful when parroting sound bites or attempting to clarify a complex issue for which they don’t have a clue what the question was about because it wasn’t in their prep; and stay cognizant of the momental seriousness of what is really going on, while never laughing inappropriately, relishing a moment of undeserved triumph unless on Fox or drawing attention to an opponents personal faux pas – they are special, no wonder so few would be up for their job.

To play their role in an unrehearsed stage drama recorded for history, always hitting their mark, in character, and delivering their lines with proper inflection while an aide is feeding the next words and names into their ear, a person of authority above them is threatening the gavel, and their fellow cast members forming a distracting queue for the next scene. Always ready to make a parliamentary inquiry into the arcane process in the archaic language to buy time or cover a false step.

They are amazing. No wonder America is so great. No wonder our founding fathers are so revered for designing this system. Speaking as one of their bastard spawn, I’d just like to say, thank you. You have made my life seem so sane and exciting compared to what you do for me.

Why do they do it for only $174,000? Must be the benefits. That, and I’m I just guessing, there are no other jobs that reward such talent.

*There are 10-20 million people currently living in the United States who will not be impacted by this legislation – those who are here illegally or without documentation. You might recognize them in the emergency room during your next visit. This law codifies that these people (that includes their innocent children) who share our genome, our neighborhoods, our schools, our places of worship and our workplaces, will not be allowed to buy into insurance pools and have no right to affordable care while in the United States.

**By uttering these words, they are allowed to submit whatever they want to have said, should they have had the occasion to speak, into the official Congressional record. Should they add a word or two, such as “government takeover,” “baby-killing,” or “he’s not a citizen,” the extra time will be subtracted from their parties alloted debate time.

12 thoughts on “We don't deserve them

  1. mike cox

    If I didn’t know better I would think your post was a tad cynical. Surely not at such a momentous time in our nation’s proud history.

    1. Lee Leslie

      Mike -- didn’t mean to, just kind a happened. What an amazing spectacle of our democracy. Our best and brightest “grown ups” going through these extraordinary gyrations. A process that proves again that truth is way stranger than fiction. Were in not so incredibly serious and boring, I would have thought I was watching a Monty Python re-run. Having heard the leaders of one party tell me the world was going to end only to be rebutted by the other party promising that we were entering a golden age, I was torn between praying, drinking, becoming a libertarian or just going to a church with a bottle and an anti-social attitude. Cynical? No, just in awe of the absurd.

  2. Lee Leslie

    Update: Republican Representative, Randy Neugebauer of the great state of Texas, in an attempt to unseat South Carolina in the mostly Southern contest for the top spot for intolerant, uncivil and overall dimwitted politicians, admitted he was the one who yelled out, “baby killer” during Representative Bart Supak’s speech. Quickly taking full responsibility only a half day after the entire class was threatened with having to stay after school, Neugie, fessed up to his lack a maturity to the “heat and emotion of the debate” and expressed dismay that his actions were “mistakenly interpreted as a direct reference to Congressman Stupak himself.”

    He went on to say that his timing was “inappropriate,” but that he was being guided by God and his faith. No results are yet in on the expected gush of campaign contributions which traditionally come forth to Republicans who are honored with the role of being the designated ass hole of Congress.

  3. quincy dee

    And then there was this -- from today’s daily press coverage:

    “Stupak wasn’t the only Democrat who had to dodge verbal bombshells tossed his way on Sunday.

    Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was smacked with an anti-gay slur while entering the capitol, while the day before, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and Rep. Andre Carson (D-Ind.) were reportedly called the N-word by protesters. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) also claimed to have been spit upon.”

    The reason our Congress members are paid so little is that they haven’t had access to any higher education. They’re stuck in Kindergarten. Wait till a teacher comes around to wash out their mouths with soap!

  4. Gita

    See, folks, Lee is your typical journalist who’s bad at math. That $174,000 salary figure he came up with? That’s just the base, Pre-Perk salary paid to congresspersons. Add to that the following emoluments:
    * $125,000 (average) annual bonuses from the NRA for NOT submitting any gun control bills;
    * $84,500 from the Southern Company and Energen for passing far distant deadlines to clean up air pollution (example: clean coal by the year 2055);
    * $120,000 from the Saudis just for doing a heckuva job;
    * $39,500 from Colombia for doing less rather than more to keep coca products off the streets.
    And the list goes on.

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      Gita -- thank you for bringing this to my attention and I am beginning to have a better understanding why someone would want such an odd job -- it isn’t about public service or power or ego, it is about capitalism. Whew. I am relieved.

      PS: I am typical, but suggest “journalist” be reserved to honor real members of the 4th estate. Thank you and I am humbled (incredible as that might sound).

  5. MaryCan

    Thanks for this, Lee, because you perfectly captured my feelings also.

    Now, a request… quite a few GOP representatives and senators have sent pleas to their many supporters begging for immediate donations so that they can fight this horrible health care reform bill, throttle it before it actually learns to walk.

    For example, John McCain only yesterday (Monday the 22nd) begged for help, whether as little as $25 or as much as $500, so that he could work to defeat the bill. I am confused. Does this mean that without an influx of cash, Senator McCain can’t afford to remain in Washington for the rest of the week?

    And Senator David Vitter of Louisana, who spent the weekend tweaking his website and enlarging the DONATE NOW! button, turning it bright red… since he no longer hangs around with ladies of ill repute, why does he need extra money to vote against something?

    And our own Ralph Reed, he of the choirboy face, set up a website demanding cash so he, also, can work to defeat it. I imagine that his only plan of action might be greasing palms somewhere, but surely not. Or rather, I hope not.

    I hope you can look into this matter, and report back to us. Thank you very much.

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      I believe this is a bipartisan problem (I exchanged several emails with President Obama yesterday on this very issue -- his email is [email protected], however, he always answers exactly the same way and seems to think I’m confused and probably intended to go to a web site to donate or unsubscribe).
      My theory is that these requests are really part of their constituent service -- donations being the paxil of modern politics. It goes something like this:
      1) (pick one or more): lack of money; lack of credit; lack of a job; lack of health care; lack of self-esteem; lack of food; lack of hope; lack of (fill in the blank);
      2) (pick one or more): watching fox news, listening to rant radio; watching MSNBC; discussing conspiracies with friends; reading facebook; reading the Dew; visiting your local tea party;
      3) being keenly aware that Obama is so much, (pick one or more): smarter, informed, fact based, reasonable, moderate, more articulate, different than my friends say he is and that I want him to be like; the socialist anti-christ;
      4) I believe God is omnipotent and is (pick one or more): a republican; against people having heath care; against taxes; against government takeover of health care; against (add as many as you like);
      5) I believe Sara Palin is (put anything in a list here);
      6) I thought the world was going to end because I heard it so many times from (pick one or more): Limbaugh; Bohner; Rove; Cheney; Robertson; (add any others here);

      I could and should go on, but basically they get really angry and are sitting there stroking their gun while searching the internet for reports indicating the end of time and these public servants want to make sure they calm down, don’t blame them, have some way to channel their anger so they go back to work, so they promise them that this is not over and they pick their pockets for beer and lotto money.

      Of course, there may be other explanations.

  6. mike cox

    I chose to listen to as little of the political posturing as I could. Part of my job requires attendance to and reporting of the Richland County, SC council meeting. If you think all politicians are alike and all governing bodies behave in a similar manner you would be correct.

    As the old saying goes, it is like watch sausage being made. Anyone who does this for a living, including me, deserves extra pay for brain damage. My editor disagrees.

  7. George

    Well written Lee. I watched for as long as I could stand. I’m still trying to get some idea how two Representatives reading the same bill and reading the same report from the GAO come up with two very different answers.

    1. Lee Leslie Post author

      I can help with that. You have a simple premise issue: lawmakers do not read these things. Their staff reads these things and tells them what to say.

  8. Cliff Green

    MaryCan: you should go a little easier on pore ol’ Ralph Reed. He cannot, with a straight face, accept money from them gamblin’ Indians over in Mississippi anymore. He has to have some other source of income just to pay for the family groceries. Health care reform is it.


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