Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) is retiring. He is not, I know, a household name, but he has been in Congress since 1993 and is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. I don’t know the man, but some quick research turns up nothing scandalous. Why then would Rep. Steve Israel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, greet Camp’s retirement announcement with an ugly, partisan and, yes, juvenile jab: “Yet another senior Republican committee chairman is abandoning John Boehner and his toxic Republican Congress”? What’s wrong with a goodbye cake?
What would have been wrong with saying something like, “Dave and I haven’t always agreed, but he has served honorably and well and I will miss him personally. We wish him the best in the future and also that he’s replaced by a Democrat.”
There: Done. Nothing mean about it. Nothing partisan about it. Nothing gratuitous about it. Nothing that adds, for no reason at all, to the fetid partisan atmosphere in Congress. Nothing but a pat on the back and some nice words — and maybe some reference to how Camp underwent several months of chemotherapy for non-Hodgkin’s large B-cell lymphoma just two years ago. That could change one’s outlook.
Israel’s statement is a small matter, I know. The roots and causes of the partisan gridlock run deep. But the statement is representative of the unnecessary verbal towel-snapping that comes out of Congress these days — and pollutes the environment. It is shocking in its casual meanness and its sheer needlessness. This country would be a lot better off if our leaders stopped confusing Congress with high school.