Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

For Congress, words for the ages

ASSOCIATED PRESS - The president can’t advance his agenda because of congressional obstructionism, as you well know assuming your Saturday Evening Post subscription was current in 1963.

The public has soured big-time on Congress these days, with polls showing most people blaming Republicans for gridlock and the government shutdown.

“The Congress of the United States is in deep trouble,” one eminent columnist wrote. “More than ever before, the public attitude toward Congress is a mixture of indifference, amusement and contempt. . . . Never before in history has Congress talked so long to accomplish so little.”

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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That was Stewart Alsop of the Saturday Evening Post, in a 1963 column that was unearthed last month by the magazine’s archivist, Jeff Nilsson. A small group of Southern Democratic senators dominated Congress, Alsop wrote, and could block bills from even coming to a vote.

The main cause of the gridlock 50 years ago was, of course, President John F. Kennedy’s effort to desegregate schools and businesses and to end suppression of black voters.

Alsop quoted Sen. Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn.) as blaming fellow liberals for allowing that state of affairs. “After all, politics is just the way you spell power, but liberals think power is sinful.”

Alsop also cited another liberal lawmaker as agreeing with Humphrey: “Power is like sex,” the unidentified lawmaker said. “If you think it’s sinful, you don’t enjoy it and you’re not much good at it.”

On a more somber note, Alsop opined: “When the citizens of a democracy begin to hold their legislature in contempt, democracy is itself in danger.”

Well, we’ve been hanging in there for a long time. Remember Harry Truman’s “Do-Nothing Con­gress”?

A van down by the river?

Timing, as they say, is everything.

So the State Department’s Foreign Service Institute, on the eve of the Great Shutdown of 2013, announced a training program for agency managers to better “motivate” their staffs. This will be essential if large numbers of State Department folks are furloughed in the next few weeks.

“Are you looking for better ways to build and maintain motivation for yourself and the people you supervise?” the Sept. 30 announcement says.

Yes, it’s “Manage to Motivate,” a “two-day workshop” that “demystifies employee motivation and offers specific tools for enhancing motivation at all levels.” You’ll even get “worksheets for diagnosing and addressing motivational issues.”

Here’s all the great stuff they say you’ll learn:

●The truth about incentive programs.

●Six intrinsic motivators that drive high performance.

●How to enrich jobs to ­increase employee motivation. (Maybe raises?)

●How to diagnose and address motivation problems.

The course is offered in November, February and April, but the way negotiations are going, the government may not be open by November, so best to sign up for the 2014 classes.

Maybe they can get someone like Matt Foley, the late, great Chris Farley’s motivational-speaker character on “Saturday Night Live”?

He also serves who . . .

Plenty of furloughed feds are hitting local drinking establishments, thanks to their suddenly free time and all those cheap-beer specials for government workers.

But one White House staffer locked out of his government office is taking to the other side of the bar. Tom Power, the White House’s deputy chief technology officer for telecommunications, has picked up some shifts slinging drinks at Gypsy Sally’s, the new music venue in Georgetown.

White House jobs aren’t the only gigs where it helps to know people: The co-owner of Gypsy Sally’s is a childhood friend of Power’s, the furloughed fed told friends in an e-mail inviting them to visit him for his first turn behind the taps Thursday night.

Power ran the gig by the ethics officials and got the okay — with one caveat: He can’t take tips from folks who might have business with his office.

“The only restriction is that if you do telecom work in the private sector, you can’t tip me when I pour you a beer,” he writes in the e-mail. “How much better can it get?”

Just call it a vacation

Folks in Washington can’t agree on much these days — and beyond substance, it seems they can’t even come to terms on the terms of the debate.

In a speech Thursday, President Obama called “raising the debt ceiling” a “lousy name.” Seems he thinks the label makes it sound as though the U.S. is taking on more debt, instead of just making it possible to pay down its existing debt.

But he didn’t offer an alternative.

And the president’s vocabulary critique is not the first quibble over shutdown semantics. Recall that the federal government stopped using the terms “essential” and “nonessential” when discussing which workers would toil through a shutdown, since they felt insulting to federal employees. “Excepted” and “non-excepted” are the kinder, gentler monikers.

And Fox News even recently eschewed the very word “shutdown” in favor of the less-scary-sounding “slimdown.”

One more time

As Britney Spears might say, “Oops, I did it again.”

Rep. Loretta Sanchez appeared to retweet — then almost immediately delete — a tweet from the pop star on Wednesday urging Congress to get to work.

The account associated with the California Democrat retweeted a message from Brit-Brit on Wednesday afternoon that read: “Go call the po-lice, Go Call The Gu-vunah! Someone tell Congress to get to #WorkBxxCH.”

Eleven seconds later, the retweet was deleted. But it was captured by Politwoops, the site run by the Sunlight Foundation that captures lawmakers’ erased tweets.

Britney’s tweet was a sample of lyrics from her new comeback single “Work [expletive]” (the song includes the line “Go call the police, go call the governor”), which she apparently customized for the shutdown-paralyzed Congress.

Sanchez’s camp tells us a staffer with access to the congresswoman’s Twitter account accidentally used the official account instead of her own private one.

Still, maybe Congress could use a little tough talk from the former Mouseketeer.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

 
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