Friday, November 18, 2011

Searching for Something Human in Washington

Another Congressional “Perils of Pauline” episode unreels with the Supercommittee jalopy dangling over the edge of a cliff as members try to freeze the frame beyond next week’s deadline while ideologues left and right gabble about bad Grand Bargains, sequesters and the like. From the cheap seats in New Hampshire, Mitt Romney accuses Democrats of a "Faustian bargain."

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin throws both sides under her bus, appealing to ends of the political spectrum, the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, to oppose Congress’ “corruption and cronyism.” From the safety of presidential sidelines, she rails:

“Politicians derive power from the authority of their office and their access to our tax dollars, and they use that power to enrich and shield themselves.”

Her screed appears in the Wall Street Journal, one of the Rupert Murdoch media from which she is drawing non-tax dollars to “enrich and shield” herself beyond any member of Congress’ wildest dreams.

The rational mind reels at this cockpit of self-interest, self-justification and hypocrisy in the name of patriotism and searches for signs of human life in the debris.

What emerges is the image of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and her astronaut husband Mike Kelly appearing on TV this week to talk about their lives and her ongoing recovery from being shot in the head last January, a story of love and courage.

Yet, even here, there is no escape from Washington meanness. Kelly writes in their book about the couple’s disappointment that three months later, when Giffords was in rehabilitation in Houston, John Boehner came down for the NCAA basketball finals.

“Considering that she was a member of Congress and he was the highest-ranking member,” Kelly notes, “we thought he’d ask to visit Gabby or at least give a call to see how she was doing.”

But Boehner had already sent a get-well card, and that was the limit of empathy for a man known to break in tears while talking about his own rise from humble beginnings.

Meanwhile, it raises a question Kelly does not address. Were Boehner’s tickets and travel at taxpayer expense, or did lobbyists pick up the tab?

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