Incivility in Congress
It seems that the political debate is more angry, hate filled, and poisonous now than any other time in recent memory. Examples of repugnant statements are easy to find; whether it be Pete Stark accusing George Bush of enjoying the deaths of U.S. troops or Harry Reid accusing the forty-nine Republican Senators of being "puppets", it often feels like our elected officials have descended to new lows in civility. The Presidential race, too, is filled with lies, distortions, and absurd accusations. (Hillary Clinton's charge of Barack Obama's ambition, based on a third grade book report, springs to mind). Have our politicians lost whatever decorum and civility they once possessed?
Well, actually, no. Politicians, and especially Congress, have been just as bad in the past. In 1991, Congressional Democrats unsuccessfully employed a despicable smear campaign against Republican Clarence Thomas. Newt Gingrich was capable of some pretty baseless accusations- he suggested that he shut down the federal government in part because he felt "snubbed" when Bill Clinton sat him in the back or Air Force One. (Clinton, for once, was innocent of the charge against him). So our present Congress is no less civilized than others we have had in recent memory.
However, it certainly is the least effective. While most Congresses lob verbal grenades while trying to block the other sides attempt to steer the country, the people in charge now seem content to merely snipe at each other while hardly even attempting to get any important issues resolved.
Many Democrats complain that really, you can't blame them for not doing anything since Bush will just veto all their legislation. It makes you wonder what exactly they thought would happen when they took power- did they think that Bush would simply go along with them? When they promised to reform Washington and end the war, did they think that George Bush would be right there with them? If they truly want to be a force for change, they must find a way to work with George Bush. If they cannot (and bear in mind, Bush is not opposed to bipartisanship. He tried very hard (and successfully) to get both parties on board for the Iraq War) they are truly amazingly incompetent.
Congress should, to borrow a cliché, put up or shut up. I believe that most people could endure a mean-spirited Congress that nonetheless got things done (for example, Newt Gingrich's Congress). They could even live with a do-nothing Congress that abided by some rules of decorum. But it seems unlikely that voters can long support a Congress that is incapable of putting forth any solutions, but only increasingly nasty and absurd insults.