Friday, August 12, 2005

An evil, adult version of Schoolhouse Rock

"Your basic Fat Evil Prick"

You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll start making plans in earnest to emigrate. But you gotta read this: Matt Taibbi takes a tour through Congress, guided by the great and quixotic Vermont rep Bernie Sanders, whose characterization of the esteemed legislative chamber—"Nobody knows how this place is run. If they did, they'd go nuts."—should be chiseled into the Capitol steps. Here are a few of Taibbi's pithier moments:
  • The House Rules Committee is perhaps the free world's outstanding bureaucratic abomination -- a tiny, airless closet deep in the labyrinth of the Capitol where some of the very meanest people on earth spend their days cleaning democracy like a fish.
  • As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Sensenbrenner is the majority lawmaker in whose scaly womb the Patriot Act gestated until its recent delivery to Rules. Though he was here as a witness, his obvious purpose was to bare his fangs in the direction of anyone or anything who would threaten his offspring.
    Sensenbrenner is your basic Fat Evil Prick, perfectly cast as a dictatorial committee chairman: He has the requisite moist-with-sweat pink neck, the dour expression, the penchant for pointless bile and vengefulness. Only a month before, on June 10th, Sensenbrenner suddenly decided he'd heard enough during a Judiciary Committee hearing on the Patriot Act and went completely Tasmanian devil on a group of Democratic witnesses who had come to share stories of abuses at places like Guantanamo Bay. Apparently not wanting to hear any of that stuff, Sensenbrenner got up midmeeting and killed the lights, turned off the microphones and shut down the C-Span feed, before marching his fellow Republicans out of the room -- leaving the Democrats and their witnesses in the dark.
  • The Democrats generally occupy a four-seat row on the far left end of the panel table, and during hearings they tend to sit there in mute, impotent rage, looking like the unhappiest four heads of lettuce to ever come out of the ground.
  • While Sanders was facing the Rules Committee, House leaders were openly threatening their fellow members about the upcoming vote on CAFTA. "We will twist their arms until they break" was the Stalin-esque announcement of Arizona Republican Jim Kolbe. The hard-ass, horse-head-in-the-bed threat is a defining characteristic of this current set of House leaders, whose willingness to go to extreme lengths to get their way has become legend.
  • Flake is a sunny-looking sort of guy with a slim build and blow-dried blond hair. He looks like a surfer or maybe the manager of a Guitar Center in Ventura or El Segundo: outwardly cheerful, happy and ill-suited, facially anyway, for the real nut-cutting politics of this sort. When it comes time for him to give his speech, Flake meanders to the podium like a man who has just had his head clanged between a pair of cymbals. The lump in his throat is the size of a casaba melon.
  • Reid's predecessor as minority leader, Tom Daschle, was a marionette of the banking and credit-card industries whose public persona recalled a hopped-up suburban vacuum-cleaner salesman. In the wake of the Daschle experiment, Reid is the perfect inheritor of the Democratic leadership mantle: a dour, pro-life Mormon with a campaign chest full of casino money.
  • Congress isn't the steady assembly line of consensus policy ideas it's sold as, but a kind of permanent emergency in which a majority of members work day and night to burgle the national treasure and burn the Constitution.

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