In our nation’s House, bad manners replace decorum
There were some extraordinary moments in the House of Representatives recently, which began with verbal sparring, which in turn led to near physical blows, which led to a startlingly tearful apology.
The bickering and the bullying have become ordinary matters of course, of course. We’ve all watched how in recent years, our nation’s Congress has turned from a forum of civility and decorum to something more akin to WWF professional wrestling.
Posturing, name-calling and all-around stupidity have marked this once-prestigious institution as the school playground of our country where bullies make life miserable for the more timid.
No one is more intimidating than U.S. Rep. Bill Thomas, a Republican from California who measured the value of his days, it appears, by the level of his dogmatic domination.
As chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Thomas has a reputation for sarcasm, insensitivity and downright nastiness. The stories of his abusive behavior are abundant.
According to Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times, Thomas has demeaned other members of the house in some decidedly dramatic ways, including the dismissal of former Rep. Jim Maloney of Connecticut as “Maloney Baloney” and publicly announcing the emptyheadedness of U.S. Sen. Tom Daschle from South Dakota.
Such evidence evidently wasn’t troubling to the chairman. Endearing himself to the opposition hasn’t been a high priority for Mr. Thomas S until now.
Last week, while this particularly childish and near-pugilistic confrontation was taking place on the House floor, Thomas dropped a dime on some cloistered Democrats and had the Capitol Police escort them from the building. It was the last bale of straw for the opposition, which immediately raced before the cameras to complain about this most undemocratic action in the very seat of our democracy.
It wasn’t long before Thomas was before the cameras as well. Only, gone was the bellicose bully, and in his place was a very contrite congressional chairman. Leaning upon the podium of the House, he profusely apologized and tearfully promised to change his errant ways.
Why the change of heart?
You can thank his mom. In his remarks, he mentioned his mother and how disappointed she would have been by his errant actions. The memory of her brought tears to his eyes and a catch to his voice.
That’s how it is with moms. They spend their whole lives and a little more preparing us to be good people, teaching us proper manners and polite behavior, and as soon as we’re out the door what happens? We become bullies on the playground.
My dear mum is still alive, and I can tell you true that there have been more than a few times that both my language and my actions have been tempered by the vision of her folding her arms, shaking her head and murmuring a “tsk-tsk” or two.
Maybe the best way to reclaim courtesy and cooperation in Congress is to demand that all the representatives and senators invite their moms to sit behind them as they conduct the business of the nation. In person or by portrait, such an invitation would probably go far in regaining the decorum that once described this now ignoble institution.
I promise you, had the mothers of those two representatives who nearly duked it out last week been present in the chamber, those boys would have been pulled by their ears into the nearest ladies restroom and forcefully reminded of their lack of manners.
Come to think of it, a swift swat on the behind might be just what this Congress needs S only, let’s let the moms dispense the discipline. Maybe then we’d get back to a little order in the House.
Rich Mayfield is a regular Saturday columnist for the Summit Daily News.
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