That’s a question that ABC News asks on the front page of their website. And, if guessed that they would simply blame Republicans, nope, sorry, you owe me a shot of Tequila
There was an extraordinary moment during the final senate debate on Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court confirmation. While Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered remarks, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) was gasping, shaking his head, and commenting under his breath. Franken’s displeasure with McConnell’s speech was so blatant that the Kentucky Republican felt compelled to confront him afterwards.
According to Republican aides who overheard, Republican leader McConnell admonished Senator Franken saying, “this is not Saturday Night Live.”
Franken later apologized, but the incident certainly raises the question: is the tradition, and indeed, the rule of decorum dying in Congress?
Remember Senator Carl Levin’s generous use of the “s”-word during a Senate Subcommittee on Investigations hearing with Goldman Sachs? Originally reading from an e mail and then questioning Goldman exec Daniel Sparks, the Senator used a word we can’t even say on TV (rhymes with witty) 21 times in a single hearing.
Also mentioned is the confrontation between Patrick Leahy and Dick Cheney (the “F-bomb” one), Anthony Weiner’s unhinged rant aimed at Peter King, Patrick Kennedy losing it on the House floor, and Joe Wilson’s “you lie”. Missing, of course, was Obama’s slaps thrown at the SCOTUS members sitting right in front of him during has SOTU speech.
But……is it really that bad?
According to the office of the House Historian, the first case of violence on the House floor happened when Congress was meeting in Philadelphia in 1798. Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont verbally assaulted and spat on Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut on the House floor. Griswold retaliated by striking Lyon with a cane. Then Lyon found a pair of fireplace tongs and began attacking Griswold.
Also mention: one Congress member shooting another in a duel, and another beating the snot out of a fellow member with a cane. So, it appears that, perhaps, ABC News is attempting to cover for the unhinged and ranting members of Congress, usually Democrats, by saying “hey, at least they aren’t fighting! And dueling!”
So, has decorum been lost? Well, there’s always been conflict in Congress, and in American politics. Remember, then VP Aaron Burr engaged in a duel with former Treasury Sec. Alexander Hamilton. William Howard Taft dueled an attendee of a speech in hand to hand cage match no holds barred combat, used a choke hold, then crushed his opponents spine, killing him. Andrew Jackson dueled another man. But, these incidents, and the incidents in Congress, were generally accompanied by flowing, gracious language, and a protocol method long established. Back then, there were only newspapers to report the incidents. Now, with TV and the Internet, we have politicians and their peeps saying the most amazing things, sometimes on purpose, sometimes by accident, all caught for posterity (or notoriety). And you have a Party with a completely unhinged base, allowing for incidents like Harry Reid saying the Iraq war is lost, and calling the President a loser. You have a president who demeans private citizens and blames everyone.
So, has decorum been lost? You betcha. Are Republicans blameless? No, but, the issues are generally from Democrats. Heck, you have unhinged Alan Grayson calling Robert Gibbs “Bozo The Spokesman.” Nor does it stop with the federal crazies. In New Hampshire, you have Keith Halloran, a Democrat candidate for the State House, wishing death on Sarah Palin. So, maybe I’m wrong, and it’s not so much that decorum has been lost, just that one Party has gone stark raving bat guano.