Op-ed: The fools on the hill and everywhere

  • By Bob Franken
  • Tuesday, October 13, 2015 4:04pm
  • Opinion

Well, the United States can take a short breath of relief. The members of Congress have taken a break and gone home. We’re safe for a little while. And, yes, that’s a cheap shot at the House of Representatives, specifically at those who run the House. But they make it so easy. More accurately, though, they fail to run what has become the House of Chaos. Or maybe Cathouse. No, not that kind of cathouse. In this case, it’s because the leaders have long known that keeping their members organized is like the cliche about herding cats.

Actually, the latest embarrassment for them is that nobody wants to be the leader, nobody who has half a brain, anyway. John Boehner, whose critics even acknowledge does have at least half a brain, finally used it and said he was outta there, that the sniping from a group of conservative hard-liners (no more than 30 members or so in a party majority of 247) was making it impossible to get anything done. Specifically, they are such true believers that compromise with Democrats — particularly their Satan, Barack Obama — became impossible.

Never mind that in a democracy, where dictating isn’t usually the way of governing, reaching consensus with those who disagree is the only alternative. But the zealots reject any accommodation. They call themselves the Freedom Caucus, and they’re a relatively small faction, but they’ve stifled any freedom of movement toward a resolution of the many measures that are necessary keep the government functioning and, for that matter, even solvent. Egged on by various demagogues, they have become a tyranny of the minority, threatening to gum up the works unless they get their way. In other words, they legislate by tantrum.

So Kevin McCarthy, the man Boehner backed as his replacement, suddenly decided that he didn’t want to be sucked into the vortex of insanity and pulled the plug. That, by the way, came after some militants on the right circulated rumors that he was having an affair with a congresswoman, which they both vigorously deny. The extremists don’t like Kevin McCarthy either; like John Boehner, he’s also too willing to wheel and deal. Finally McCarthy decided this was too ugly even for politics, so he dropped his bid to be speaker. With that, everybody left town. Mercifully.

Yes, it’s easy to ridicule, and I personally take every opportunity to do so, but the buffoonery we witness on Capitol Hill certainly is matched by what we see in the presidential race, where Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina and Ben Carson, among others, are tapping into a widespread anger at the incompetence and thievery that has left our society in dire straits, where nobody can expect fairness. The mood is bitterness, and the Donalds of this world know just how to exploit it. Citizens are so upset about the con job they’ve gotten from the establishment that they don’t care whether the “outsiders” are truthful or hateful bigots or make any sense whatsoever.

The problem is that their hostility is justified. For generations, those in power have been mainly lining their own pockets and/or feeding their own egos. Unfortunately, fighting back with anarchy just won’t cut it. Is it really too much to ask that we can select public officials who conscientiously serve the public? Or have we regressed to the point that we are too corrupt for anyone to function for the greater good, and too polarized to act together in the only way democracy can operate.

The mindless rigidity we’re seeing in the House of Representatives and the divisiveness we’re suffering through from the campaigners isn’t going to achieve anything. The die-hards can’t be allowed to take us all down. We all need to insist that the quality of those we elevate to our highest offices are worthy of the honor. Regrettably, those we’ve chosen mostly are dishonoring the process. We must do better.

Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist, including 20 years at CNN.

More in Opinion

This image available under the Creative Commons license shows the outline of the state of Alaska filled with the pattern of the state flag.
Opinion: Old models of development are not sustainable for Alaska

Sustainability means investing in keeping Alaska as healthy as possible.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveils proposals to offer public school teachers annual retention bonuses and enact policies restricting discussion of sex and gender in education during a news conference in Anchorage. (Screenshot)
Opinion: As a father and a grandfather, I believe the governor’s proposed laws are anti-family

Now, the discrimination sword is pointing to our gay and transgender friends and families.

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President Nathan Erfurth works in his office on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Now is the time to invest in Kenai Peninsula students

Parents, educators and community members addressed the potential budget cuts with a clear message.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: An accurate portrayal of parental rights isn’t controversial

Affirming and defining parental rights is a matter of respect for the relationship between parent and child

Opinion: When the state values bigotry over the lives of queer kids

It has been a long, difficult week for queer and trans Alaskans like me.

Dr. Sarah Spencer. (Photo by Maureen Todd and courtesy of Dr. Sarah Spencer)
Voices of the Peninsula: Let’s bring opioid addiction treatment to the Alaskans who need it most

This incredibly effective and safe medication has the potential to dramatically increase access to treatment

Unsplash / Louis Velazquez
Opinion: Fish, family and freedom… from Big Oil

“Ultimate investment in the status quo” is not what I voted for.

An orphaned moose calf reared by the author is seen in 1970. (Stephen F. Stringham/courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Maximizing moose productivity on the Kenai Peninsula

Maximum isn’t necessarily optimum, as cattle ranchers learned long ago.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The time has come to stop Eastman’s willful and wanton damage

God in the Bible makes it clear that we are to care for the vulnerable among us.

Caribou graze on the greening tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska in June, 2001. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: AIDEA’s $20 million-and-growing investment looks like a bad bet

Not producing in ANWR could probably generate a lot of money for Alaska.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: King salmon closures long overdue

Returns have progressively gone downhill since the early run was closed in June 2012

(Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: Fixing legislative salaries and per diem

The state Senate was right to unanimously reject giving a 20% pay… Continue reading