Thursday, July 26, 2012
The other day I had a conversation with a former member of the House of Representatives, a thoughtful moderate Republican from a northeastern state. We were talking about the severe partisanship in Congress these days, and how the dearth of personal relationships across party lines makes it almost impossible for them to trust each other, much less work together, in developing legislation. Apart from the usual reasons given for this -- that members no longer socialize with each other on weekends because their families much less frequently move to Washington -- he suggested that the huge decline in Congressional junkets had compounded the problem.
In days of old, members of Congress were always flying off on one or another "fact finding" trip that somehow involved nice hotels and the hoisting of many drinks. Between much tighter "ethics" rules and harping publicity, today there is far less Congressional travel than there once was. The former Congressman said that he only took three trips with other members during his ten years in Congress, twice to Iraq and once as part of a delegation assigned to a state funeral. Whatever the intrinsic merits of those trips, they were one of the only occasions when he had significant time to get to know Democrats at a personal level. When he flew across an ocean with a lefty member of the Black Caucus, they each learned that they had far more in common, both personally and in their opinions about policy, than either had dared imagine.
This point actually makes sense to me. Anybody who has been a leader in a large and complex organization knows that it is much easier to resolve disputes and otherwise move forward if there is trust built through fellowship between people who might otherwise come in to conflict. That is why smart companies try to foster those relationships among their leaders, whether through off site meetings, softball games, or happy hours to celebrate an accomplishment. If Congressional junkets are a means for that -- and it seems highly likely that they would be -- then we might be much better off if there were more of them. A few more boondoggles might be a small price to pay for a little more effectiveness in Congress.
You came back from you rest with a thoughtful idea. I support your idea. Too bad that past excesses have soured the country on such foreign trips. Also I am afraid that too many on each side see any friendship with those on the other side as consorting with the devil.
Agree with Steve D.
Lest we forget, it was bipartisanship between Democrats and "thoughtful moderate Republicans," many from the Northeast, that enabled Congressional Democrats to ratchet spending higher year after year. And GWB may have been from Texas, but his brand of compassionate conservatism was born of New England style Rockefeller Republicanism. GWB invented the trillion dollar deficits which Obama has normalized.
Ann Coulter once referred to mushy political moderates as people too stupid to have a political philosophy. She is correct. The hollowing out of the mushy middle in Congress is a good thing. Americans deserve a genuine choice between surrendering essential freedoms to accept paternal governance from the left or maintaining their essential freedoms to accept limited government from the right.
Ditto Steve D. and Anon Attorney.
"A few more boondoggles might be a small price to pay for a little more effectiveness in Congress."
Effectiveness at what? More laws and more taxes? Do they ever repeal laws or lower taxes?
While your point is a good one for business organizations, the Congress is not a business. And if Congress isn't sufficiently collegial for some of its members, then they should take H.S.T.'s advice and "get out of the kitchen."
God bless gridlock.
No. Hell no. Congress doesn't "need to reach across the aisle." They need to fear their constituents reaching for the tar & feathers or torches and pitchforks. Pissing money away drinking single malt scotch and schmoozing on an airplane to a Hawaiian Island 'working session' is just exactly what is not needed at this point.
How about the buy a f*cking six-pack and go bowling with your would-be buddy across the aisle?
Reach across the aisle leads to abysmal laws like ADA and NCLB. I'll take a double order of gridlock instead. If they want to schmooze, they can throw a congress-only barbeque. No need to provide public largesse to fund it--I fund my own damn barbeques.