Timothy Egan, the sage of the West, had a column in the Aug. 23 edition of The New York Times entitled "The Crackpot Caucus." It detailed how Todd Akin (KS) was by no means alone in his ignorance of basic facts of life and science. Indeed, his "legitimate rape" remark fit in well with several of his colleague' immoderate and uninformed views.
But what really caught my eye was a headline in the Aug. 25 edition of the paper: "Capitol Dome Is Imperiled by 1,300 Cracks and Partisan Rift." Apparently there are some 1300 cracks in the Capitol Dome. If not repaired, leaks could cause further damage and pieces could fall off. The Dome, visible from afar, lit brilliantly at night, is a symbol of our democracy. The cracks are a metaphor for our broken political system. The Senate has appropriated the $61 million needed for repairs on a bipartisan basis. The Republican House has so far refused and is likely to continue to do so.
Is this the party that keeps saying that if average families can balance their budgets, the federal government should do so too? Sure is. An average family that had a badly leaking roof that threatened to collapse would fix it. But not the GOP-controlled House. They are willing to risk further damage and even injuries from debris falling into the Rotunda based on crackpot ideology.
I pondered this and then imagined how the discussion might have gone in their caucus:
Speaker John Boehner (OH) called the caucus to order and turned over the gavel to Eric Cantor (VA) in order to duck responsibility for the outcome. Cantor asked if anyone supported the funding. Frank Wolf (VA), one of the least immoderate members of the caucus, said that the July 29th storm that hit his district caused a leak in his roof and he hurried to fix it before interior damage was done or it became worse. He was promptly expelled from the caucus.
Paul Ryan (WI) took time from the campaign trail to address this threat to his budget. He argued that if things like this were added, he would never make the 2040 date for balancing the budget. Ron Paul (TX) stood to support Ryan arguing that there was no Capitol dome in 1776 or 1789 and that reconstruction would violate the Constitution. Darrell Issa (CA) said there was an opportunity here. The dome was last repaired fifty years ago during the Kennedy-Johnson Administrations. He offered to open an oversight investigation and demand that the White House turn over all relevant documents to Congress and appoint a special prosecutor. Alan West (FL) agreed and asked that an investigation be launched as to whether any of the communist members of the Democratic caucus were involved. Michele Bachmann said she could only agree to that if the investigation also looked at the role of Islamic influence in the State Department.
The caucus unanimously agreed not to appropriate the funds and to launch the investigations.
As they departed, they received word that a piece of the dome had fallen off and injured a visitor. They were relieved when told his name had previously been purged from the Pennsylvania voter rolls.
The Times quotes Stephen T. Ayers, the architect of the Capitol, as saying: "The dome needs comprehensive rehabilitation... "
So too, it seems, does our political system.