The news last week that public opinion of Congress had sunk to new lows, with one June poll showing 7 percent of Americans having any significant confidence in the institution, is yet another reminder of how bad things are on Capitol Hill.
But was congressional politics ever really such a revered occupation?
The Brookings Institution’s congressional expert, Thomas Mann , says no. The job by its very nature was never intended to produce great statesmen. What’s needed to do the job well, Mann says, are the political skills of negotiating and problem-solving. And politicking has always carried with it a negative connotation.
So before you get too nostalgic for the good old days of functionality, remember that deprecating Congress is an American pastime.
Legend has it that President Andrew Jackson’s relationship with Congress was so strained that he had the Treasury Department built next to the White House to block its view of Capitol Hill.
In that spirit, the Loop has compiled a half dozen of some of our favorite love-to-hate-Congress quotes:
1. “There is more selfishness and less principle among members of Congress than I had any conception of, before I became President of the U.S.” — James K. Polk, 1846
2. “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.” — Mark Twain, 1881
3. “This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.” — Will Rogers, 1930
4. “Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens — and then everybody disagrees.” — Russian actor Boris Marshalov, mid-20th century. (Loop fans may remember him as the haberdasher in the 1966 film “Terror in the City.”).
5. “You can lead a man to Congress, but you can’t make him think.” — Milton Berle, circa 1950
6. “I have wondered at times what the Ten Commandments would have looked like if Moses had run them through the U.S. Congress.” — Ronald Reagan, circa 1980
Though the sport of politics has always been unpopular, we know that being completely ineffective creates a whole new layer of public disdain.
It was but a year ago that disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner lost his New York mayoral bid, undone by his annoying penchant for sexting self-portraits to a number of women — even after he resigned his congressional seat a year earlier for that same deplorable habit.
But as we reported Friday, citing a report in the Rockaway Times, Weiner has a new, and really quite commendable, project: establishing the nonprofit Rockaway Restoration Kitchen, which is described in an Idealist.org ad as a “healthy, sustainable restaurant in a hard luck community to provide training, on-the-job apprenticeship and placement in the culinary and food service sector for unemployed New Yorkers.”
A wonderful idea. But the name? Rockaway Restoration Kitchen? This will not draw customers. You can’t even tell what kind of food it will serve.
There has to be a better name! (Loop fans know where this is going.)
Yes, it’s the “Name the Weiner Restaurant” Contest! It needs to be catchy, able to attract customers. Perhaps a particular cuisine? (Remember, he allegedly used that spectacular alias, Carlos Danger, so maybe south-of-the-border fare might work.)
Winners get one of our highly coveted Loop T-shirts.
Send entries — only one suggestion per person — to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to provide your name, profession, mailing address and T-shirt size (M, L or XL), in case you’re a winner.
You must include a phone number — home, work or cell — to be eligible. Entries must be submitted by noon, Aug. 18.
(Please keep your entries, at the very most, PG-13).
Will President Obama dump a bucket of ice water over his head?
If you spend any time browsing your Facebook newsfeed, you’re well aware that your “friends” have taken to posting videos of themselves pouring freezing liquid over themselves in the name of charity and then nominating others to do the same within 24 hours.
Now it’s Obama’s turn.
The Boston Globe first reported Monday that Ethel Kennedy, the 86-year-old widow of Robert F. Kennedy, had challenged Obama to get doused. In a video posted on the Facebook page of Ethel’s son Maxwell Kennedy, she holds an orange beach bucket and, after the entire Kennedy clan pours ice on themselves one by one, she says, “Welcome to Cape Cod, President Obama. I nominate you,” before getting assistance having ice water poured over her head.
We’re awaiting a response from the White House. Obama is on Martha’s Vineyard, an island off Cape Cod, for a weeklong family vacation. (We bet he does it.)
The Ice Bucket Challenge is part of a campaign to raise money and awareness about amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the nerve-cell affliction also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. The cause has spread fast across social media. If Obama accepts, he’ll join the likes of Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, Matt Lauer and Martha Stewart.
Your move, Mr. President.
Twitter: @KamenInTheLoop, @ColbyItkowitz