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Keeping it real

March 29, 2006

I called my parents a few days ago because I wanted to tell them about two exciting developments on the Hill: the House had appropriated more money for the African Union mission in Darfur and approved language that prohibited appropriations they were then working on from being used to make permanent military bases in Iraq. While I don’t work on those issues myself, the news was significant and I wanted to share it with someone. No one was home. I called my sister, and she seemed more concerned with her tax liabilities, and was unable to appreciate the gravity of these developments with me.

I finally got in touch with my Dad the following morning and was able to relay the good news. He didn’t get it. I had to tell him it was significant and that this language was in fact meaningful. He said “well that’s great,” in the same way that someone looking at the picture of a hideous baby would say that it was the cutest thing in the world. We also talked about Feingold’s censure motion before the Senate. My Dad and I agree that it is a worthy and worthwhile measure. He started talking about an article that said that conservatives were using the censure motion to rally their ranks, but how my dad (and many others) thinks the president should be censured for all the lies peddled and half-truths told… and how he wouldn’t vote for Hillary anyway. He was rambling, but the connection between all of this was made, and it got me thinking.

I started telling him how the censure motion was simple and clean and that was best. There is nothing about the war, nothing about “I don’t think anybody anticipated the breach of the levees” or help is coming, nothing about “we do not torture.” Its simple – we’ve got this law called FISA, it says that you need a warrant to tap a phone, the President didn’t have a warrant, he broke the law. But wait – all of those other issues are important too, and IT IS all connected. Why shouldn’t the censure include all of that?

Feingold’s measure is simple, and I’d vote for it if I could. When I step back though from these two mini-conversations, I see that they are wrapped in the plastic wrap of the beltway, stuck in a microwave at 10% power. Maybe I’m in there too? I can see what is outside, but I’m stuck in this little confined space, my insides slowly being nuked. I used to be a “big picture” kind of guy, trying to find themes and make connections, but now I think more about minutiae, coalitions and bipartisanship. Is $50 million more – to stop genocide – something to celebrate? Is language buried in one small appropriations bill for a war that costs hundreds upon hundreds of billions of dollars, something to celebrate? Is the simple censure of a man who has flagrantly broken law upon law, something to celebrate?

Politics warps your mind. Remember that, don’t forget the big picture and don’t get stuck in plastic wrap.

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