Friday, April 2, 2010

Our Stupid System, Part 1

It’s said that the news is the first draft of history.  Unfortunately for future historians, however, it appears as though the news is dropping the ball.  Broadcasts are excessively ideological.  Reduced budgets and increased insistence on driving high profits have created less incentive to research and fact check, assuming such a desire exists in the first place.  News these days is reduced fluff, accompanied by a he-said, she-said format that gives the impression of conflicts that may or may not be valid.  Culling valid knowledge from the news is a basically impossible.

As such, it is now up to the bloggers to write that all-important first draft of history.  We here at Accidental Historian see this as a sacred role and will do our best to fill in.  We’ll begin our quest to create the first draft of history with the story of one of the most divisive pieces of legislation in the history of the country.  Actually, the world, since America is, after all, the most important bit of the world ever.

*  *  *

It began, as so many such tales do, in the Congressional Cafeteria, specifically on Wednesday.  Wednesdays are usually the day such things happen, as they’re Beenie Weenie days in the cafeteria.  It’s a known fact that the favored food of all Congresspeople is the humble Beenie Weenie.  Foie gras Fridays and Whatever the Hell we Found in the Kitchen Tuesdays aren’t nearly as popular.

Either way, on this particular Beenie Weenie Wednesday the Congressional Cafeteria was finally beginning to calm down after a particularly tense switchover to the new term.  Scott Brown was finally able to carry his plastic tray to his table without worrying about being tripped and running from the room covered in food while everyone else pointed and laughed at “the new guy.”  The California delegation sulked in the corner, occasionally looking longingly at the table where the rich states hung out and they had, too, until the collapse of their economy had gotten them kicked out.  The Illinois Congressional Caucus had finally been allowed back from the table reserved for states whose governors were the subject of intense scrutiny due to ethics concerns.

John Boehner and Alan Grayson sat in the middle of the room, watching videos of angry protests on Grayson’s iPhone.  Roland Burris looked over their shoulders, slowly shaking his head.

“This is crazy, man,” the Senator finally said.  “Our country has been so divided by all of this.”

“We should really do something,” Boehner said, closing down the YouTube feed.  “Something that takes a principled stand and allows us to stand up as the leaders the American people need us to be.”

“Let’s issue a joint resolution,” Grayson said.  “Something that says to the American people, ‘We’re working together to find what’s great about this country.’  Something that everyone can rally behind.”

“How about veterans?” Burris asked.  “We can totally honor our veterans.”

Boehner shook his head.  “Nah.  That’s on the right track, but we honor our veterans all the time.  We need something else.  Something that says, ‘We’re all  Americans together.””  He thought for a moment.  “Something like…baseball.”

“Yeah!”  Grayson said.  “Everyone loves baseball.”

“Baseball?”  Burris snorted.  “You guys have obviously never been to Chicago, then.  The only thing we can get Cubs and Sox fans to agree on is that the Bears suck.”

“How about football, then?”  Grayson replied.

“No way,” a new voice chimed in.  “Too violent.”

They turned to find Kay Bailey Hutchinson standing behind them.

“So what’s your idea?” Boehner asked.

“Apple pie.”

“Too fattening,” said Eric Cantor as he stepped up to the table.  “Sorry.  I couldn’t help but overhear.  I totally agree we need to do something.  But we need something everyone loves.  I, for one, love a good ham sandwich.”

“And you apparently don’t love Muslim or Jewish support,” Joe Lieberman said, smacking Cantor on the back.  “I like where you guys are going with this, but you really need to be careful.”

“How about a lazy summer afternoon on the beach with the sun on your face?” Grayson asked.

“It’ll never fly in Alaska,” Hutchinson replied.

“Man, this bipartisan stuff is way harder than it looks,” Burris said.  “That’s why we kicked all the Republicans out of Chicago.”

“Hell, yeah,” Hutchinson agreed.  “If you’ve got an Obama ’08 bumper sticker on your car down in Texas we respect your right to be there, but we sure as hell don’t let you establish permanent residency.”  She paused.  “Well, outside Austin, at least.”

With that the two Senators fist bumped.  It was the last moment of agreement the Congressional Cafeteria would see for a while.

The argument went on for hours, slowly drawing in every Representative and Senator, as well most of their staffers, a half-dozen pages, and a bemused Joe Biden, who had waved his President Pro Tem badge at the lunch lady in order to slip in the back door and see what all the fuss was about.  He did not offer any suggestions, however, as the President Pro Tem is symbolically disallowed to offer any input in to the daily operations of the Congressional Cafeteria.  After six hours, though, he began to seriously consider ordering the lunch session adjourned.

 As he opened his mouth to call the room to order Grayson, who had been staring in to his nearly empty bowl of Beenie Weenies without speaking for nearly three hours, suddenly perked up.  He looked John Boehner in the eye with a wide grin and said exactly one word.


A smile slowly spread across the Republican’s face to mirror Grayson’s.  “Puppies,” he said.  “Everyone loves puppies.”

“Hell, yeah,” Hutchinson added.  “Anyone who hates puppies can’t possibly be an American.”

A murmur passed slowly through the room as the Congress of the United States slowly processed the importance of puppies to the American people.

“I love puppies,” said Harry Reid.

“So do I,” John McCain added.

One by one the legislative branch affirmed their appreciation of puppies until only one was left:  Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin of South Dakota.  Five hundred and thirty-eight pairs of eyes turned expectantly towards her.

She stared back for five, then ten interminable seconds.  “I don’t know,” she finally said.  “I’m kinda allergic to dogs.”

A loud groan passed through the collected Congresspeople.  Max Baucus threw his hands up in frustration.  Jeff Sessions dropped to his knees in despair.

“But,” Herseth-Sandlin quickly added, “I do think puppies are really cute.  I mean, I used to have this puppy calendar hanging on my wall that I loved.”

“That’s good enough for me,” Brad Ellsworth said.  “Let’s get on with the Joint Resolutioning!”

The Senators and Representatives headed for the doors in a joyous, noisy gaggle, united in their love of puppies and desire to make a real difference for the American people.  Finally there were only three people left in the room.  Grayson and Boehner smiled wearily at each other across the table while Joe Biden beamed benevolently over them.  They sat in silence for a long, comfortable moment.

“You boys did good today,” Biden finally said, before turning on his heel and walking out of the room.

“Just imagine,” Grayson said, “Tomorrow every single member of Congress, whether Representative or Senator, Republican, Democrat, or whatever Lieberman is this week, is going to be sponsoring a single bill that the American people can get behind.  It will be broadcast on C-SPAN and posted on THOMAS and everyone will be able to see we’re serious about working together."

“Puppies.”  Boehner nodded.  “How could anyone be against puppies?”

*  *  *

The next day H.J. Res.790 was proposed before the House.  The Resolution was passed unanimously, then sent to the Senate.  The higher chamber unanimously passed the bill, too.  All this was done before the steady gaze of the cameras of C-SPAN and C-SPAN2 and seen by nearly a dozen elderly shut-ins, three hospital patients in a persistent vegetative state whose televisions had been accidentally turned on by orderlies, and four elementary school children in Wyoming who had been told to watch C-SPAN to learn about how the government of the United States functions.

The text was posted to THOMAS, the Library of Congress’s site wherein all Congressional resolutions and bills are stored for public consumption.  The text read:


Recognizing the awesomeness of puppies.

WHEREAS puppies are very soft and cuddly.

WHEREAS puppies are really damn cute.

WHEREAS everyone can agree that puppies are about a thousand kinds of awesome.

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that Congress –

(1)  Expresses their appreciation for the cuteness of puppies;

(2)  Supports the idea of playing with and properly caring for puppies; and

(3)  Calls upon the people of the United States to join together in the love of all things puppy.

Speaker of the House of Representatives
Vice President of the United States and
President of the Senate.

The text of H.J.Res 790 was duly posted to THOMAS, where for weeks it languished, read only by a half-dozen harried law students and the guy responsible for keeping the THOMAS database up to date.

Then something crazy happened.  The blogosphere got its hands on H.J.Res 790.


Big A said...

As an unabashed fan of all things puppy, I eagerly await the continuation of this saga!

Evan said...

Sorry, but Joe Biden isn't President Pro Tem; that's Sen. Robert Byrd. As Vice-President of the United States, he is President of the Senate.

Good story, though. I'd be ashamed but not that surprised if Congress was really something sort of like this!

Geds said...

Gah. That's what I get for not paying attention in high school, I guess.