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Rolling Stone: The Worst Congress Ever

While I was in Newark Airport waiting for a delayed flight home, I picked up the latest issue of Rolling Stone. The cover story is a hilarious and on-point article by Matt Taibbi, The Worst Congress Ever: How our national legislature has become a stable of thieves and perverts — in five easy steps.

You must read this. It’s a chronicle of how Republican rule on the Hill has set the new standard of political inertia, corruption and indecency.

In the past six years they have castrated the political minority, abdicated their oversight responsibilities mandated by the Constitution, enacted a conscious policy of massive borrowing and unrestrained spending, and installed a host of semipermanent mechanisms for transferring legislative power to commercial interests. They aimed far lower than any other Congress has ever aimed, and they nailed their target.

“The 109th Congress is so bad that it makes you wonder if democracy is a failed experiment,” says Jonathan Turley, a noted constitutional scholar and the Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington Law School. “I think that if the Framers went to Capitol Hill today, it would shake their confidence in the system they created. Congress has become an exercise of raw power with no principles — and in that environment corruption has flourished. The Republicans in Congress decided from the outset that their future would be inextricably tied to George Bush and his policies. It has become this sad session of members sitting down and drinking Kool-Aid delivered by Karl Rove. Congress became a mere extension of the White House.”

Taibbi spends a good chunk of the “Step One: Rule by cabal” section on the outrageous behavior of James Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

The committee is chaired by the legendary Republican monster James Sensenbrenner Jr., an ever-sweating, fat-fingered beast who wields his gavel in a way that makes you think he might have used one before in some other arena, perhaps to beat prostitutes to death. Last year, Sensenbrenner became apoplectic when Democrats who wanted to hold a hearing on the Patriot Act invoked a little-known rule that required him to let them have one.

Well, he let them have one, and he acted like a petulent child when the hearing actually drew quite a crowd, and those testifying dared question some of the elements of the Act. What did Sensenbrenner do?

Sensenbrenner kept trying to gavel the hearing to a close, but Democrats again pointed to the rules, which said they had a certain amount of time to examine their witnesses. When they refused to stop the proceedings, the chairman did something unprecedented: He simply picked up his gavel and walked out.

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“He was like a kid at the playground,” the staffer says. And just in case anyone missed the point, Sensenbrenner shut off the lights and cut the microphones on his way out of the room.

I blogged about this back in June.

My favorite part of the article — it had me laughing so hard that I was crying in the airport — was about the sad sack convicted ex-Congressman from Cali, Randy “Duke” Cunningham. This was the guy who pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, mail fraud, tax evasion and wire fraud, and is serving eight years in the clink here in NC. He received at least $2.4 million in bribes, and notoriously had a handwritten bribe price list for his ability to steer business to defense contractors. In the RS article, it’s clear the Dukester isn’t playing with a full deck…or even a half of a deck. From prison, he scrawled out a letter to a reporter, Marcus Stern, who was one of the figures that exposed Cunningham’s misdeeds, and the Dukester (also outed as having had sexual relationships with men — and another Rethug with a zero HRC rating, btw) clearly isn’t sorry for what he did. His level of literacy is mindboggling:

“Each time you print it hurts my family And now I have lost them Along with Everything I have worked for during my 64 years of life,” Cunningham wrote. “I am human not an Animal to keep whiping [sic]. I made some decissions [sic] Ill be sorry for the rest of my life.”

The amazing thing about Cunningham’s letter is not his utter lack of remorse, or his insistence on blaming defense contractor Mitchell Wade for ratting him out (“90% of what has happed [sic] is Wade,” he writes), but his frantic, almost epic battle with the English language. It is clear that the same Congress that put a drooling child-chaser like Mark Foley in charge of a House caucus on child exploitation also named Cunningham, a man who can barely write his own name in the ground with a stick, to a similarly appropriate position. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the former chairman of the House Subcommittee on Human Intelligence Analysis and Counterintelligence:


As truth will come out and you will find out how liablest [sic] you have & will be. Not once did you list the positives. Education Man of the Year…hospital funding, jobs, Hiway [sic] funding, border security, Megans law my bill, Tuna Dolfin [sic] my bill…and every time you wanted an expert on the wars who did you call. No Marcus you write About how I died.”

How liablest you have & will be? What the fuck does that even mean? This guy sat on the Appropriations Committee for years — no wonder Congress couldn’t pass any spending bills!

My god. Did the voters realize that they were sending a half-wit to sit on the Hill and make decisions on their behalf? It’s beyond embarrassing. Is the GOP populated with morons like this?

And the answer is yes. Rolling Stone highlights the best of the bottom of the barrel with The 10 Worst Congressmen as well. Here’s the list:

1. Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois): the highway robber — and predator-enabler

2. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin): the dictator.

3. Don Young (R-AK): Mr. Pork — for his bridge to nowhere.

4. William Jefferson (D-Louisiana): the bribe taker — remember that money stored in the freezer?

5. Jerry Lewis (R-California): the king of payoffs — from lobbyists.

6. Tom Tancredo (R-Colorado): Mr. Bigotry. The list on this guy is a mile-long. His idea of
counter-terrorism is to bomb Mecca.

7. Dick Pombo (R-California): Enemy of the earth. He wants to abolish the Endangered Species Act.

8. Curt Weldon (R-Pennsylvania): The conspiracy nut — he still believes Saddam had WMDs.

9. Hal Rogers (R-Kentucky): Bin Laden’s best friend — he places airport security at risk with no-bid contracts to unqualified companies (and relatives) to develop security systems.


10. Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colorado): The Christian Soldier. We know this vile beast well — preserving marriage with a federal amendment is “the most important issue that we face today.”

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding