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Howard's Daily: Clueless in Washington

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You will laugh, or maybe cry, when watching Jon Stewart's recent interview of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. (You can see Part 1 here, Part 2 here, and Part 3 here.) 

Why is it, Stewart asks, that everyone talks about politics, and no one focuses on government's inability to get things done sensibly? Pelosi: Republicans are obstructive.

Stewart: To make the Democrat's case, wouldn't it be helpful if government could actually do the job competently? Pelosi: Democrats need better messaging.

What about the failure of the Obamacare rollout? Pelosi: "I don't know." Stewart, rising as if to leave: "Let me get the House Minority Leader here -- I can ask her. ... How do you not know?" Pelosi: "It's not my responsibility."

Stewart: "Has the regulation become so onerous that government can no longer be agile?" Pelosi: "The procurement process...everybody knew about that."

Stewart: The Obama campaign computer genius wouldn't bid for the Obamacare IT contract because he couldn't figure out how to navigate the "300-page document" for bidding. Pelosi: "It doesn't matter. ... It should have been prepared for."

Stewart: "Do we have a foundational problem?" Pelosi: No. Stewart asks for an example of government's ability to do its job "in an agile and efficient way." Pelosi: The Affordable Care Act.

Let's pause for a minute. Here we have the top House Democrat who, apparently, doesn't understand that government doesn't actually work very well. Not that Republicans would get to the point either. They would be quick to jump on government's failures, but rarely offer solutions to help government work sensibly.

Political leaders apparently see all issues through the lens of partisan debate, not whether government actually works. In the hermetically sealed bubble that is Washington, our would-be leaders fight about ideology. Dysfunctional bureaucracy, as Pelosi put it, "doesn't matter. ... It should have been prepared for."

Oh, okay, who is in charge of making government work? Pelosi says it's not Congress' responsibility. The president is neck deep in decades of statutory and bureaucratic accumulation, like the 300 pages of procurement regs, and lacks legal authority to clean it out. So ask yourself again: who's in charge of fixing government?   

Change will only come from the outside, as retiring Sen. Tom Coburn recently noted. Fixing broken government will require a popular movement to force change. Someone recently asked me what the rallying cry might be for a movement. Maybe we could sponsor a contest. Should we demand that every member of Congress resign? Or call for a constitutional convention? 

The moral here is not that Pelosi looked ridiculous. She has the wrong idea of her responsibility. She doesn't know what her job is. That's a flaw in America's political culture. The only way to fix it is dramatic intervention from the outside.

For more Howard's Daily posts, visit commongood.org/blog.

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