Saturday, June 21, 2008

Inside Baseball

There are daily reminders why Americans hold their Congress in such low regard. Today’s example comes from a “dust-up” between Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV) and the Secretary of Interior. It is all outlined in the June 19 issue of The Washington Post.

The National Park Foundation decided to hold a reception celebrating National Parks. Unilever underwrote the festivities. The “dust-up” occurred when the announced venue was the Capitol Hill Club, the national Republican club situated across from the Cannon House Office Building.

On April 21, Rahall wrote Interior Secretary Kirk Kempthorne decrying the partisan venue. National Park Director, Mary Bomar, responded to Rahall on May 30, defending the location.

This is the kind of “inside baseball” that fills an average day in our nation’s Capital. Minor slights over protocol can derail major policy initiatives. Personal feuds can sink compromises. Egos get in the way of the peoples’ business.

The case of Rep. Rahall, taking the time to engage over a reception’s venue, and the media’s reporting, gives us a glimpse into a strange parallel universe where such things matter.

Over the last four years the Bush Administration has been gutting the National Park Service under the guise of a management review called “Core Operations” (see my February 15, 2008 blog – “National Treasures"). Entire park units have been closed, major education programs have been curtailed, and priceless national treasures have been put at risk. Yet, not one hearing or public letter from Rep. Rahall on the wanton and fundamental destruction of one of the major agencies under his committee's jurisdiction.

This is one more reason why there is so much disdain for Congress. Real things happen, that affect real Americans, and nothing is said or done. The priority and zeal is for making an issue out of the trivial. The only value of these minor issues is to placate the ego of some official or provide an opportunity for some pedantic partisan cheap shot. Shame on Congress, for wallowing in non-issues to the detriment of those that really matter. Shame on The Washington Post, for covering such stories while ignoring the real world.

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