Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 19, 2010

'THE BART SIMPSONS OF CONGRESS'.... The House was all set last week to approve the America COMPETES Act, a jobs bill with a specific focus on boosting investing in science, research, and training programs. It was scuttled by a deliberately absurd Republican motion related to pornography, which Dems were afraid to vote against because they knew it'd be used in attack ads.

The little stunt -- eerily reminiscent of a farcical scene from "The Simpsons" 15 years ago -- delayed consideration of the bipartisan bill, which is due to come back to the House floor today. (Under a suspension of the rules, the GOP won't be able to use a motion to recommit, but the bill will need a two-thirds majority to pass.)

The American Enterprise Institute's Norm Ornstein explains in his latest column that last week's antics, orchestrated by the House Republican leadership, were a sad display. Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) were "visibly exultant" when the America COMPETES Act was needlessly delayed, which only reinforces our worst fears about their abilities as lawmakers.

John Boehner used to be a serious legislator. Eric Cantor is smart and a justifiably rising star in the GOP firmament. But they are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, gleeful at smarmy and adolescent tactics and unable and unwilling to get serious. Instead of encouraging a constructive relationship with the serious and fair-minded legislators on the Democratic side, they are adding to the traction of their take-no-prisoners counterparts. What a shame.

Ornstein has a higher opinion of Boehner's and Cantor's abilities than I do -- I simply cannot recall a time when Boehner was a "serious legislator" -- but the larger point is an important one. The leaders of the House Republican caucus, including a man who may be Speaker of the House in January, are at their most comfortable acting like children. They've grown to love gimmicks and stunts, and approach the substance of policymaking with all the seriousness of a kid who enjoys the popping sound of bubble-wrap a little too much.

And if Republicans excel in the midterms, Boehner and Cantor will perceive it as a reward for their antics, which will only encourage them to be more ridiculous.

Steve Benen 12:40 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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For years, the GOP leadership has reminded me on the Junior High School Student Council. They do all kinds of goofy stuff and think the world is going to end if they don't get their way. But on the Student Council, it doesn't matter what they do. None of their actions will affect anything. Would that this were also true of the GOP leadership.

Posted by: Emily on May 19, 2010 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Boehner and Cantor are quite satisfied to be on the public dole. As far as their character, Bart Simpson has it hands over fists above the both of them.

To me, they're more like Ren and Stimpy or Beavis and Butthead!

Seriously, Boehner and Cantor are corporate whores! -Kevo

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Posted by: ahfieah on May 19, 2010 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

Neither Boehner, nor Cantor EVER have the courage to the right thing. They are enemies of the state, in my opinion.

Posted by: Bill on May 19, 2010 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

...they are becoming the Bart Simpsons of Congress, ....

I'll call your Beavis and Butthead, kevo --- and raise you the Three Stooges, sans Moe.

Posted by: S. Waybright on May 19, 2010 at 1:11 PM | PERMALINK

Neither Boehner, nor Cantor EVER have the courage to the right thing. They are enemies of the state, in my opinion.

Neither of them would know the right thing if it bit them in the ass. For what it's worth, I don't think they're going to take back the house. We're going to make the case that they stood with big oil and the banksters. Voters won't reward them for that. Even stupid voters won't.

Posted by: fourlegsgood on May 19, 2010 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Er, ah, the good people of Springfield resent your implication, sah. I am now off to Aruba to explore the feasability of an Aruba-to-Springfield monorail.

P.S. Vote Quimby.

Posted by: DiamondJoeQuimby on May 19, 2010 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

I like Norm Ornstein, and I guess the fantasy that Things Used To Be Better is hardwired in our brains, but he's off here. Before he somehow made his way to the leadership, after Newtie and Livingston and Dick Armey and Tom Delay had torpedoed themselves and each other (who am I forgetting?), and poor old Denny Hastert decided to waddle back into obscurity to spend more time with donuts and fried chicken, Boehner was best known for literally passing out lobbyists' money on the floor the House.

Posted by: Jim on May 19, 2010 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with the other posters. Steve, you defame Bart Simpson with your comparison. I think Beavis and Butthead is a more apt comparison.

Exactly how are Beavis and Butthead going to publicize and benefit from their grand success? After all they deliberately delayed a jobs bill focusing on good high paying jobs. I am sure a lot of people who are already pissed at Washington types like Beavis and Butthead are going to applaud delaying a jobs bill.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 19, 2010 at 1:24 PM | PERMALINK

KENT BROCKMAN: With our utter annihilation imminent, our federal government has snapped into action. We go live now via satellite to the floor of the United States congress.
SPEAKER: Then it is unanimous, we are going to approve the bill to evacuate the town of Springfield in the great state of--
CONGRESSMAN: Wait a second, I want to tack on a rider to that bill - $30 million of taxpayer money to support the perverted arts.
SPEAKER: All in favor of the amended Springfield-slash-pervert bill?
SPEAKER: Bill defeated.
KENT BROCKMAN: I've said it before and I'll say it again: democracy simply doesn't work.

Posted by: Morbo on May 19, 2010 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

(Er, for those of you such as myself not following the link in paragraph 2)

Posted by: Morbo on May 19, 2010 at 1:29 PM | PERMALINK

I thought I was being clever when I quoted that scene in the previous thread, but it looks like Chait made the connection 2 hours earlier, judging by the time stamps.

Posted by: Grumpy on May 19, 2010 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

Larry and Shemp huh? Okay, I concede to your observation S. Waybright! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on May 19, 2010 at 1:49 PM | PERMALINK

They're addicted to stupid stunts because that's all they're in a position to do. If they actually control the body (and if they have the votes you know they'll control them), they'll move to actually enacting wrongheaded and counterproductive legislation in addition to lots of stunt investigations.. We'll probably remember the days of the stunts fondly at that point.

Posted by: drkrick on May 19, 2010 at 1:50 PM | PERMALINK

First of all, Bart's not orange.
Second of all, Bart doesn't look like a turtle.

Posted by: cwolf on May 19, 2010 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

Cantor does not look like a turtle,,, that's McConnell.
Cantor does not look like a turtle,,, that's McConnell.
Cantor does not look like a turtle,,, that's McConnell.
Cantor does not look like a turtle,,, that's McConnell.
Cantor does not look like a turtle,,, that's McConnell.
Cantor does not look like a turtle,,, that's McConnell.

Posted by: cwolf on May 19, 2010 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

"Cantor does not look like a turtle,,, that's McConnell."

(one should be enough)

Neither of them holds a candle to Phil Gramm. Now there's a real tortoise of a man!

Posted by: Zandru on May 19, 2010 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

@ Zandru on May 19, 2010 at 2:03 PM

(one should be enough)

Have you ever seen Bart during the opening of every Simpsons episode?

Posted by: cwolf on May 19, 2010 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Quick, pull my thumb.

Posted by: Scott F. on May 19, 2010 at 3:38 PM | PERMALINK

If you want to understand what the minority's leaders are up to, check out the College Republican's history going back to Donald Segretti.

Posted by: hankstone on May 19, 2010 at 5:35 PM | PERMALINK

Who comes up with these things?

Did Cantor and Boehner think this one up, or do they have a staff of stunted conservatives who use their intelligence for nothing more than to twist, contaminate, and corrupt wording into vile messages designed to sink the best intentions.

Posted by: Skip on May 19, 2010 at 6:12 PM | PERMALINK

The US led in almost every field of industry and technology, until the government got into the act by flooding the country with a tsunami of low quality techs from the third world, ruining the R&D infrastructure. This created a vicious cycle. Americans don't want to enter difficult fields that are glutted with immigrants, so profs desperate to fill their classes call for more and more low quality immigrants from the third world to fill classes.

Immigration is PC, of course, but would you rather have a German or Japanese car, or an Indian or Chinese car? One could understand trying to import German and Japanese engineers, but why Washington is so enamored of third world engineers to compete with high tech exporters like Germany and Japan is baffling to one not conditioned by political correctness.

Posted by: Luther on May 20, 2010 at 2:21 AM | PERMALINK

A well-written article, though personally I have to confess that I don't know why people still bother pointing it out when Republicans prevent government from solving people's problems. Republicans don't want the government to do ANYTHING except deliver the mail, send all the Hispanics back to Hispania, and hand out fat, sweetheart contracts to their friends' companies. We're going to be ruled one way or the other, folks, and it can be by one of two groups of people: politicians who are responsible to us, or corporate sleazebags who are responsible to nobody.

Posted by: Derek on May 20, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK



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