America really loathes Washington right now, and that’s preposterous: Our Town has done nothing wrong.
Washington is a place where hundreds of children couldn’t play soccer this past weekend; where cafeteria workers, janitors and secretaries aren’t getting paid for who knows how long; where buses and subway trains run empty; where shoeshine guys sit idle; and where Girl Scout troops had to cancel annual camping trips.
The people of Washington didn’t want this and aren’t to blame for it, either. All the crazy that led to this absurd impasse that prompted the Senate’s chaplain to pray last week, “Save us from the madness”? That’s been imported here from the rest of the country.
America, you sent these guys here. They represent plenty of you, none of us. That imported brand of cuckoo is what’s causing this government shutdown.
Consider that the next time you find yourself slamming Washington as a political cesspool. Or, as the New York Daily News put it in its memorable “House of Turds” front page last week, “D.C. cess-pols shut down government.
The problem with that funny headline: These pols aren’t from D.C. President Dwight Eisenhower nailed it when he said, “There are a number of things wrong with Washington. One of them is that everyone is too far from home.”
They come from afar and forget to act decently. They strong-arm and manipulate and broker and wink, and then fly home for pancake breakfasts and down-home photo ops.
You, America, send us people like Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, a former homeless man with a drug charge under his belt who had campaign bumper stickers urging the arming of fetuses: “If Babies Had Guns, They Wouldn’t Be Aborted!”
And former congressman Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., who’d still be elbowing people out of the way at news conferences to get in front of the cameras if he hadn’t accidentally tweeted crotch shots to various women who weren’t his wife on the way to the mike.
Let me introduce you to the real Washington, a place that bears little resemblance to a cesspool or to the rarefied schmoozing, revolving-door incestuousness and million-dollar backslapping described in Mark Leibovich’s best-selling book about Washington, “This Town.” Leibovich is describing political Washington, not Our Town.
Our Town is a land full of people who were born and raised here, or who moved here decades ago to work and raise families: the beloved barber, the Redskins fan who painted his house red and gold, the school teacher who stays late every day to conference with working parents.
The great irony is that the people of Our Town proper don’t actually have a vote in the Capitol of Crazy.
But suddenly our parks, streets and playgrounds have been closed by lawmakers who arrive here on Monday afternoon and fly out on Thursday so they don’t have to spend any more time in the political yuckpit they’ve created.
Our Town extends to the sprawling suburbs of Virginia and Maryland, where hundreds of thousands of analysts, architects, accountants, waitresses, doctors and construction workers live and work. They are moderate, reasonable people who send moderate and reasonable representatives to Congress, not kooks.
Many of them are hurting right now because they’ve been furloughed by this unnecessary shutdown that’s nothing more than a giant chess game for the folks who aren’t from here. Our Town is the sandwich shops, dry cleaners, taxi drivers and food trucks getting skunked in this political game.
When Miriam Carey was gunned down by police after her wild car chase through our Town last Thursday, lawmakers gave a standing ovation to the U.S. Capitol Police, who were working to keep these folks safe even though they weren’t getting their paychecks.
The very next day a man saluted the Capitol, doused himself with gasoline and set himself on fire. He died Friday night, and investigators still don’t know who he was or what his motive might have been. All we know for sure is that he had some kind of message, and it wasn’t good.
Meanwhile, This Town went on with its life, continuing the fundraising dinners, the power lunches. They don’t really care what they’ve done to Our Town.
Here’s how brazen and hypocritical they are. Last week. Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, berated a U.S. Park Service ranger who’d been told she couldn’t allow veterans to visit the shutdown World War II memorial. He had a nearly bipolar response to the shutdown, which he helped orchestrate.
“The Park Service should be ashamed,” Neugebauer said, in a video captured by NBC News.
“I’m not ashamed,” said the ranger, a citizen of Our Town.
“Well, you should be,” Neugebauer said.
No, congressman. You and your colleagues should be ashamed of what you’ve done to Our Town.
Petula Dvorak writes for the Washington Post.