Washington never looks more ridiculous than when viewed from outside the Beltway. Or, in my case, the Ohio turnpike.

I spent more than a few, impressionistic hours on this highway last week. Dark green leaves that will someday give forth corn and soybean. The long, outstretched arms of commercial water sprinklers. Farmhouses naked against passing glances. A plume of dirt, a distant tractor.

At one point, the country music soundtrack that inevitably accompanies such trips was interrupted by the baritone of an old-school newsman. Something about the debt ceiling. A sound byte of a Democrat spitting blame at Republicans; a Republican hissing disapproval of Democrats. Gridlock, disastrous results.

And I thought: Who cares?

Who cares at this point why the process is bogged down? Who cares whether McConnell or Reid or Cantor or Obama or some less well-known politician is at fault? What about keeping the egos in check, setting party loyalty and personal ambition aside and getting things done?

Of course, honest disagreements exist and a rousing debate over policy is healthy. But what makes Washington infuriating and unfruitful is that cowardice and self-interest too often drive the debate; what is right for the country is ultimately scrapped in pursuit of shallow, solipsistic goals. And let’s not forget the never-ending cycle of assigning blame and stealing credit.

But I haven’t completely despaired. Somewhere along the fields that flank the Ohio turnpike, a distant tractor churns up a cloud of dirt and the corn will be ready for harvest in just a few months.