Do the Congressional

"Who are we here to represent?"

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: The single most useless man in America

I know that some of you are looking at the caption under this picture of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and thinking “Wow! Our Mad (political) Scientist is being kind of mean here.”

Actually, the fact that I didn’t go any further than calling him useless was my being nice. If I said what I really felt about Sen. Reid, then you could call me mean. In fact, you could feasibly ask me if I kissed my late Mother with that mouth….

But let me explain why I think that Sen. Harry Reid is about as useful as a tub of jello…and why I think I may have insulted jello by saying that.

Sen. Harry Reid is the single most useless man in America because he had a public mandate to get something done about a very important issue concerning Americans and even with a majority in his house of Congress, he managed to get rolled by a special interest group.

Granted, the National Rifle Association is not your average interest group. It’s a big group with lots of supporters, some of whom supported what it was you were assigned to do. But when you allow folks like Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell to keep you from restoring something to the Senate that it had before you took over—the concept of majority rule—you deserve a heaping helping of my contempt.

I’ll explain.

While many of us were missing Soledad O’Brien as we watched CNN prove through its coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings that it’s better to be last and right than first and wrong, Congress was debating a bipartisan bill that if passed would expand universal background checks to cover gun show and internet purchases, but not purchases made between relatives.

(This had the potential of bringing a Conga line of adult adoptees into Family Courts across the nation to take advantage of this loophole, but I don’t think that anyone thought about that when they put this together.)

The compromise was brokered by two guys who had A ratings from the National Rifle Association, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey. This bit of Democratic (Manchin) and Republican (Toomey) partnership was designed to help the bill get one step closer to President Barack Obama’s desk and make families who had lost loved ones in mass shootings in Colorado, Wisconsin, Arizona and Connecticut and to urban street violence in Chicago feel like their loved ones deaths had counted for something.

In fact, I thought that the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut would put background checks over the hump. Now let’s keep it real here: When 21 white kids get shot by an assault rifle-wielding nut job in their elementary school, that tends to lead to something getting done. I’m not being racist here, something that I need to say because some white person will swear that what I just said was racist, but ask yourself: were we having a conversation about gun control or background checks when the kids being slaughtered on the streets were Black and Latino and the streets they were being slaughtered on were city streets? No. But when it’s an issue to White, suburban families, politicians generally run over themselves to be the first to solve the problem.

Hell, to make sure that something came out of this, the NRA was even invited to the table by Vice President Joe Biden and Senators Manchin and Toomey to put in its two cents.

But while the NRA was at the table, it was also whispering in the ears of the Senators it supports, telling them to vote no on the bill.

And they listened. By a vote of 54-46, the bill strengthening background checks was defeated.

The NRA, of course, was happy. Thanks to their efforts, the Second Amendment stands to take over the rest of the Constitution. As the document’s Third Rail, you’re not supposed to even think about, well, keeping some people and a firearm from ever getting together because gun-rights folks will have a full-on, paranoid freak-out if you even look like you’re going to put the words commonsense, gun, and legislation into the same sentence.

They swear that asking for such things as making sure that you’re not allowing a murderer or a person prone to domestic violence through a background check is a slippery slope that will lead to nationwide gun registration, the government confiscating all of the guns from so-called “law abiding” gun owners, and the inevitable black helicopters of the New World Order coming to call..

(I often wonder if these folks realize that their tendency to have a full-on paranoid freak-out whenever someone puts common sense, guns, and legislation in the same sentence is probably the biggest reason why some of us want to see more gun control, not less.)
But President Obama, Vice President Biden and a group of parents including some from Sandy Hook and victims of gun violence like former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who left her dream job in public service after being shot in the head during a “Meet Your Representative” gathering, were less than amused with the Senate because of this. A member of one of the Sandy Hook families shouted “Shame on You!” in the Senate Chambers.

“Joe, I’m gonna need you to go and get Harry for me after this…”

At a press conference in the White House Rose Garden afterward, Obama, well, let the Senate have it. Calling it “a shameful day for Washington”, a town that’s had so many of them it’s hard to keep count, Obama asked out loud what many citizens were thinking after the vote.

I’ve heard some say that blocking this step would be a victory. And my question is, a victory for who? A victory for what? All that happened today was the preservation of the loophole that lets dangerous criminals buy guns without a background check. That didn’t make our kids safer. Victory for not doing something that 90 percent of Americans, 80 percent of Republicans, the vast majority of your constituents wanted to get done? It begs the question, who are we here to represent?”

Well, let’s see. They’re not representing the families of the murdered. In fact, some members of Congress said that bringing them into the conversation was the equivalent of “emotional blackmail.”

They weren’t representing those folks who say that closing the gun show and Internet gun sales loopholes makes sense.

And they weren’t representing those who believe that America is awash in guns and large ammunition clips designed to do nothing but kill.

The next thing that the Senate did, pass an amendment punishing states that publish information about gun owners, tells you who they represent.

The Senate, and by extension Congress, represents the NRA.

Thus, they will heretofore be known as “The NRA-Controlled Congress.”

Which goes back to my friend Sen. Reid.

Before Sen. Reid became Senate Majority Leader, you could pass most things in the Senate with a simple majority vote. There were some things that required 60 votes to stop a filibuster and end debate, but most things were majority rules.

But, as they are wont to do, the Republicans began abusing the filibuster rule. Now just about anything of any consequence requires a 60-vote cushion to even be discussed. Since Sen. Reid can’t always count on his majority to hold, certain things end up either not passing or twisting in the wind.

Sen. Reid promised that in a second Obama Administration term, he’d reform the filibuster rules so that majority would rule when it could, and 60 votes would go back to being the gold standard, not the “we’re gonna use it to obstruct” standard. 

But instead of true reform, he caved in to McConnell and didn’t go nearly as far as he should have.

Thus, you can have a majority of the Senate want to see something pass, and instead have it fail.

And with that, Sen. Harry Reid becomes more useless than jello.

My hope is that this defeat makes President Obama do something that he was kind enough not to do during his first term… decide that it might be time for a vote of “no confidence” for Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader. 

Because if he doesn’t what happened yesterday is going to be the rule, and not the exception…

And, in the words of Sweet Brown, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

Bringing the Crazy Part III: The Muslim Brotherhood Edition

What?! Me, Crazy?!

When we last left Minnesota Congresswoman, and Tea Party favorite Michelle Bachmann, she was bowing out from the GOP Presidential Race, much to the chagrin of political columnists, late night comedians, and smart asses like me who were looking forward to seeing what a presidential debate between Bachmann and President Barack Obama would look like.

But while she is out of the Presidential Race, Rep. Bachmann is never far from the spotlight. She’s one of those folks that from whom the combination of an open mic, and a vivid imagination spring the kind of results that not even the best novelists or screenwriters could make up.

Her latest bit of “We’re gonna find the anti-Americans and smoke ’em out of their holes” nonsense involves Huma Abedin, an aide to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a fellow member of the Minnesota delegation, Congressman Keith Ellison.

Now why is she singling out Abedin, the wife of former Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York and Ellison?

Because they’re both Muslims.

And in Bachmann Land, a place that I imagine is a bit like the Eagles’ “Hotel California” (You can check out anytime you like, but you may never leave…) that makes them members of the Muslim Brotherhood that are helping this Egyptian political party bring down America.

No, you’re not reading that wrong. A current member of Congress is accusing a fellow sitting member of Congress and the wife of a former member of Congress of being part of a group that she says is looking to bring down America.

She made the accusation against Abedin in a letter that she sent to the Inspectors General of the Departments of Homeland Security, State and Justice that asked that they look into possible ‘tentacles’  of anti-American activity.

(Man, do I wish that Rep. Weiner was still in Congress! His floor speeches used to be one of my favorite things about C-Span. I can only imagine what he would have said about this…)

The accusation against Rep. Ellison came this morning in a story published in The Star-Tribune about Rep. Bachmann’s appearance on Glenn Beck’s program Thursday night. “He has a long record of being associated with [the Council on American-Islamic Relations] and with the Muslim Brotherhood,” she said to Beck.

(By the way, does anyone watch Glenn Beck’s new program? When you’re so off the wall that you get kicked off of Fox News, what does that say about you?!)

In any case, the accusations have caused a bit of an uproar and unlike most things in the current Congress, it’s bipartisan.

The Sen. John McCain that would have given President Obama a run for his money four years ago showed up on the Senate Floor to denounce the accusations, calling them “sinister”. Speaker of the House John Boehner, seeing yet another one of the ways that the Devil takes his payment up front and in pounds not ounces when you make a deal with him, said “Accusations like this being thrown around are pretty dangerous”…and not just to my position as Speaker of the House…

(Actually, that last part was mine…)

And just about everyone compared Bachmann’s charges to someone that no Republican likes to be connected to: Joseph McCarthy.

For those of you who don’t remember the whole Red Scare thing (and to my former students, no, I wasn’t there and I’m not that old…smart asses…) Communism was the boogey man in question. Because the Soviet Union had become this big thing post World War II, Rep. McCarthy thought that Communists had infiltrated the United States and were trying to bring America down from within.

As a result, he held a series of hearings that led to mothers testifying against sons, husbands against wives, artists being “blacklisted” and unable to find work, and a climate of fear that so seriously abridged freedom of speech that it got ridiculous.

Fortunately, JOURNALISM existed back then. Folks like Edward R. Murrow dug into McCarthy’s charges and exposed them as false, which is what journalists are supposed to do. Once that happened, McCarthy and his series of hearings came to an end…and McCarthy himself would up dying drunk and friendless.

But unfortunately, it appears that no one has learned from this exercise. Earlier this year, Rep. Allen West, a man that Kid from Kid and Play will be suing any day now to get his hairdo back, accused members of Congress of being Communists.

However, to outdo Bachmann in the Congressional Sweepstakes of Crazy, you’ve gotta work real hard and get up real early…She always brings it, and it’s usually a level of nuts that no one could make up.

Now are there folks in the so-called Muslim World (and I say so-called because I went to a panel discussion on Islam and the Media earlier this week that kind of taught me that this is how I should refer to it) that might want to knock America down a peg or two? Yep. While no one wants to admit it, we haven’t always been kind to folks in that part of the world.

But is everyone who practices the faith of Islam here in America looking to do the country in? Nope. Most Muslims are just trying to live their lives, raise their kids, and follow their faith without people giving them a hard time.

The least that a member of Congress, the body charged with creating the laws that we all live by in this country, could do is not make that harder.

But when it comes to Rep. Michele Bachmann, I think that Mark Twain said it best…

“‘Tis better to be silent and be perceived a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt…”

While we’re on the subject

Let’s talk about Congress.

Elizabeth Dole, the incumbent senator from North Carolina, now has to out and find a real job. She lost her seat to State Sen. Kay Hagan. One of Dole’s last campaign act was to run an ad calling her opponent “godless”. I think that did her in.

Tom Udall will replace Pete Dominici as Senator of New Mexico. Dominici, who was one of the folks involved in the US Attorney firing scandal, is retiring.

Alaska’s Sen. Ted Stevens, who is on his way to jail for some malfesance regarding gifts, is about to find himself out of his senate job…and that’s without the whole being made to resign due to his ass going to jail thing.

The Democrats, who already control the Senate, may be moving toward a filibuster-proof majority of 60. That could be interesting.