EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


October 6, 2013

Column: Congress' shutdown joke is no laughing matter

The humorist Will Rogers once compared Congress to the greatest comedic gathering in history. It’s not difficult to imagine what he would think of that august body now as the national angst grows by leaps and bounds, thanks to a dysfunctional legislature.

The clowns who occupy Capitol Hill today not only are a collective joke, they seem determined to put us through a period of chaos with one purpose: to satisfy some vague ideological belief that we all would be better off back in the 1950s. At least some of those who obviously would like to undo the election of Barack Obama seem to feel that way.

Ostensibly, the fight is over health care reform, including those roughly 40 million Americans who don’t have any insurance at the moment. But the intensity of their anger makes it is easy to believe there is something far more sinister at foot here that has overtones most of us don’t like to think about in this modern age -- a palpable dislike for the current president based on his uniqueness in history. It began almost immediately after his 2008 election to a first term.

House Republicans -- and I’m including their weak-kneed, seemingly impotent leaders -- are being dragged around by a rather small minority of so-called tea party enthusiasts who don’t seem to care that a new Quinnipiac poll showed 74 percent of Americans not only blame them for shutting down the government, but also think they’re a passel of anarchist nincompoops who delight in the possible wreckage they might cause.

These Republicans’ objective appears to be to cause enough damage and pain that some Senate Democrats, facing re-election in the conservative South and West, will be forced to break a solid front and join the effort to scuttle or delay “Obamacare.” That’s the most cynical scenario, but it would be in keeping with the atmosphere of self-preservation that has pervaded Congress in recent decades.

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