I’m getting too old for this shit. When i began obsessing on politics, back in my teens, following the game the way other guys followed box scores, and housewives followed soap operas, there were two kinds of politicians. There were the corrupt horn dogs, heading to Washington to stuff their pockets and get laid, and quiet, studious do-gooders, waiting patiently to inherit the earth after everybody else died of their excesses.
But no matter which path they chose to get there, perdition or piety, once they actually got there, their continued residence depended on one thing, bringing home the bacon. The rubes who sent them to Washington will put up with almost anything except potholed roads, higher taxes, and late social security checks. So, no matter their political stripe, they came together to keep the suckers rolling in gravy so that they could continue their own personal pursuits.
Yertl the McTurte is a perfect example of this kind of throwback pol. Right now, only 1 out of every three citizens of his own state thinks that his turning oxygen into carbon dioxide to feed plants is a valid reason to keep him in Washington. Yet his shamelessly corrupt wife is using her official cabinet position to funnel more than $87 million in tax booty into the state in construction projects to keep him out of the house. And it just might work.
But now, there is a wild, untamed, destructive cat in the zoo, the ideological warriors. They rode the coattails of the Koch brothers astroturf Tea Party into congress in 2010. Their banner is different, they run under “I believe in something! It may not be what you believe in, and you may take it in the short for it, but goddammit, I believe in it, and that;s what this country needs! So send me to Washington and make a stand, any stand!”
This dichotomy between practicality and political zealotry was once again on full display last week. By now, the entire planet, along with several alien species equipped with i-Phones and streaming video, has seen Jon Stewart’s emotional, poignant, heart wrenching spanking of the House committee that Jon Stewart laid down over funding for the 911 first responders. And when Stewart finally slumped wearily back in his chair and moaned, “Do your damn jobs,” the standing ovation he received from the gallery completed the humiliation of the committee.
Sadly, over this issue, Stewart has become a kind of kind of congressional Halley’s comet. Every few years, he has to once again brighten the night sky of a committee hearing room, reminding all and sundry that he, and the basic problem, are still there. And at its core, the issue is a matter of both compassionate, as well as absurd political stupidity.
If there are two things that are sacrosanct in American politics, they are our brave troops, and the heroic 9/11 first responders. No politician who hopes to keep a cardboard box out of his office for his personal effects will say a bad word about either of them. Even a craven chicken hawk like President Bone Spurs hands lavish praise to our soldiers, as well as the brave men and women who helped to clean up the mess that made Trump Tower allegedly “the tallest building in Manhattan.”
Tragically, the 9/11 first responders share a common cause with the residents of Flint, Michigan. Both are the victims of, intentional or unintentional, government malfeasance. The Flint residents were poisoned by their own government through bad judgement, and a cover up when it became apparent that even a little lead in the water was a bad thing. And the first responders were placed in grave risk by a governmental rush to action, telling the workers that a toxic stew of dust and chemicals in the air was safe to breathe, even when a fundamental understanding of the risk counseled caution and protection.
The truly sad thing about this recurring shit show is that is a totally self inflicted wound by congress. It would have been the simplest thing in the world to have made the funding for both medical as well as compensation to the responders and their survivors, permanent when the original bill was created. On its face, the bill itself is about as controversial as vanilla ice cream. Liberals and conservatives alike agree that these brave men and women, as well as their families, must be cared for after their incredible sacrifice. So, why not just do it once and be done with it? Because a handful of ideological Conan the Barbarians don’t want it to be done if it comes at the expense of McConnell’s $87 million in construction funds, or a trillion bucks in Koch brothers swag. There are principals of fiscal responsibility at stake here you fools! And so, time and again, Jon Stewart and his cancer ridden band of brothers trudge back to Capitol Hill, to once again ask for what everybody already agrees that they deserve.
Oddly enough, this brand of “fire and brimstone” fiscal conservatism is damaging the GOP. Voters don’t want to see these heroes put through another sad dog and pony show for their dignity, any more than they want to see billions in aid for hurricane and other natural disaster victims uselessly held up for 10 days by one lone moron out to make an ideological stand. It doesn’t take six hours of research in a library to see that all of these squeaky wheels are on one side. The biggest current complaint about congress is the senseless gridlock, but it’s not the traditional, pragmatic politicians causing it. It’s the ideological zealots. 2018 was a referendum on them, and McConnell is ensuring that 2020 will be another one, by making it crystal clear that only one side is trying to get the things that people want done, done. But it shouldn’t come at the expense of the dignity of the heroes of 9/11. That bill should come payable in about 17 months.