What does one do when one learns that one is -- how shall I put this? Universally hated? Despised beyond measure by everyone? Faced on a daily basis with a public that would cheer the sight of you and all you colleagues stripped naked and horsewhipped the length of Pennsylvania Avenue? Well, if you are the U.S. Congress -- currently holding strong at a 9 percent approval rating in a world where I'm guessing that at least five percent of the public would allow themselves to have a pig's bladder full of live wasps thrown at their face at least once, just to try it -- you could decide that you are going to start doing the opposite of whatever it is you're doing now.
But why make an effort when you can just make a bunch of glum jokes about it, instead? Via Politico:
Sen. Lindsey Graham is so embarrassed about the 9 percent approval rating -- released Tuesday night in a New York Times/CBS poll -- that he's going incognito.
"It's so bad sometimes I tell people I'm a lawyer," the South Carolina Republican told POLITICO on Wednesday. "I don't want to be associated with a body that in the eyes of your fellow citizens seems to be dysfunctional. It matters to me."
"We're below sharks and contract killers," added freshman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.).
Yesterday, Sen. John McCain was sounding a similar refrain, joking on Twitter that the 9% approval ratings meant that they were "down to paid staffers and blood relatives." How similar a refrain was it? So similar that Daily Intel's Dan Amira found 26 examples of McCain making this joke, dating back to May of 2006.
Seems to me that round about the seventeenth time you've joked about how incapable you are of doing anything that people don't hate, it sort of becomes incumbent on you to try to do something about it. And since none of these guys want to resign, today -- which is an option! -- I'm going to generously assume that they actually want to work within the system to improve the way their institution is viewed by the public.
Graham himself seems to suggest that such a path is open:
While Obama has shaped the early part of his presidential campaign around attacking a dysfunctional Congress, his approval numbers aren't great either, sitting at a glum 46 percent, with 38 percent approving of his handling of the economy.
But 38 percent believe Obama has a clear plan for job creation, compared to just 20 percent for Hill Republicans.
Compared to Congress, "he's a rock star," Graham declared.
"There's always been a healthy disdain for political institutions," Graham said. "But when it becomes unhealthy is when 91 percent of the country believes that the Congress is detached from reality."
I've been taking the pulse of the public for a long time, and I can state pretty definitively that the reason why "91 percent of the country believes that the Congress is detached from reality" is because that's precisely the way Congress behaves. For years, in poll after poll, the public has been sending Congress a strong message, as pure as a toot from Gabriel's horn: "We want you to focus on unemployment. We do not share your obsession with the federal deficit. Stop working on that! You hear me? Wait -- hold on...what are you doing? You're threatening to not raise the debt ceiling, and plunge the global economy into default? Have you guys lost your everloving minds? Listen here, you..."
And the rest of that is basically unprintable. But here we have this jobs plan that voters and economists seem to like -- and it's just sitting there. That alone makes the president look like a "rock star," in comparison to all of the glum Congresscritters trying to mine some sympathy in this race-to-the-gallows comedy competition.
Lindsey, listen to me. I know that many of your colleagues see the American Jobs Act as something that's intended as a cheap, election year wedge-gimmick. Brother, I can get cynical with the best of them. I'm not going to call you insane for thinking that it's been offered up for no other reason than to paint you guys in the worst possible light come 2012.
Here's what I don't understand -- why haven't you called its bluff? If the White House's jobs plan proves to be junk, everyone's going to blame the White House. If it proves to be effective, you get to share in the victory. Either way, you get to defuse the criticism that y'all are a bunch of dyed-in-the-wool obstructionists, which has sort of been your cynical game over the past year. Let's face it: when Obama said that he couldn't run against a do-nothing Congress if Congress actually managed to do something, he sort of gave away the game.
This is just an idea I had. If you can do better, by all means, have at it, Mr. 9%.
READ THE WHOLE THING:
Even Congress hates Congress [Politico]
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