Matt Yglesias asks "what's the dumbest part" of this David Broder column and comes up with a good reply, which you can find by following the link, but I'm afraid Matt's wrong, and the booby prize most deservedly goes not to the author of the column, but to former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle for this rather unsurpassable idiocy:
"Our goal is not to find common ground among the four of us on every single issue but to find those areas on which common ground can be found, and then see if we can become the catalyst for bringing that common ground to Congress."That's their goal, you see. I'm reminded of Mencken's comment on the speechifying of President Harding: "It is so bad that a certain grandeur creeps in." That's a lot of ground to be found, Senator. What, you could ask, would it mean to be "a catalyst for bringing . . . common ground to Congress?" The bringing of ground is an odd enough metaphor without the addition of chemistry.
The four Quixotes here profiled for their Broderian commitment to comity as the signal virtue for the proper conduct of a civilization share a concern, put thusly by Howard Baker:
"[T]here is a growing view, and certainly it's my view, that while partisan debate is essential to our system, it has grown so hostile, it has grown so raucous, that it has now had a corrosive effect on our ability to govern."When Congressthings start talking about "our ability to govern," it is time to buy guns and run for the hills. This sort of talk is the verbal equivalent of a gypsy child waving a newspaper in your face; you can be sure that another hand is relieving you of your wallet and your wife of her purse. As Yglesias noted, a man can do a lot of cooperating on a budget of $7 million a year, particularly when the cooperative effort is to the ends of finding "evidence-based, collaborative approaches [that] can gain the public and political momentum needed to forge political consensus." There isn't a sunk block of concrete to be found in that sea of abstractions. They aren't seraching for anything in particular. They're searching for "approaches."
CAPT. SPAULDING: [to Mrs. Rittenhouse and Mrs. Whitehead] Let's get married.I hate to continually quote Louis Brandeis, but here we go again:
MRS. WHITEHEAD: All of us?
CAPT. SPAULDING: All of us.
MRS. WHITEHEAD: Why, that's bigamy.
CAPT. SPAULDING: Yes, and it's big ah me too.
The doctrine of the separation of powers was adopted by the Convention of 1787, not to promote efficiency but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power. The purpose was, not to avoid friction, but, by means of the inevitable friction incident to the distribution of the governmental powers among three departments, to save the people from autocracy."Partisan debate" isn't divided government, but the principle is the same. The substantive differences between parties are vanishingly small, but let's take what we can get. A little "inevitable friction . . . to save the people from autocracy" is a good thing, contra Broder and the Washington Gang, who have a positively cancerous dedication to the uncontrollable, exponential growth of laws.
Good old Hammurabi's great innovation of writing down the rules was a boon to common men because it reduced the capacity for capricious mischief with the law on the part of the goverment. A person could actually learn the rules he was or wasn't breaking. The United States is well on its way back to collective illiteracy, so this is all something of a dead letter anyway--you'll pardon the expression. Still, it's clear that one effective purpose of government as these thick-tongued lunatics envision it is to continue this legislative baby boom from here to infinity, to render it impossible for an ordinary person to know what is or is not against the law through sheer legal logghorea. It's already nearly impossible to tell what is and isn't permissible in this free country of ours. Comity? I wish they'd go back to shooting each other. Maybe then they'd leave the rest of us alone.