Thursday, September 07, 2006

What You See Is All You Get

As someone who cares more about public policy than gamesmanship, The Oracle tires of the political realities behind headlines such as this: "House GOP plans earmark reform in appeal to conservative base."

The Oracle is not naive about the political calculations that go into most of what politicians do, but it would be nice if every once in a while one were permitted to suppose that some idea, such as reining in wasteful spending, was going to get a vote because someone in leadership thinks its in the best interests of the country.

Sometimes, cynicism about political motives is driven by the media. However, in recent months many Republicans on Capitol Hill have been distressingly forthright about their intentions. Back when the House was grandstanding over a vote on gay marriage, one Republican congressman declared that it was important to get Democrats' votes on the record. Yet, for the publicly minded among us, Congress doesn't exist for the purpose of getting votes recorded. It is supposed to play its part in governing the country.

Would Republican leaders, who have been resisting calls from within their own party for spending reform, allow this to come to a vote if they were not now in fear of the looming political consequences? Probably not.

If Republicans lose the House, it will partly be due to the reasons usually given: the unpopularity of the President and the war. However, it will partly be the result of a public that has become fed up with a Congress that spends so much time posturing that it never gets around to governing. After all, if image is everything, the interior must be hollow.

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