Saturday, December 19, 2009

Comity or comedy?

Senator Franken, Democrat of Minnesota, garnered a little attention this past week. First with this radical declaration: "We are entitled our own opinions. We are not entitled to our own facts." (Gee... I —like— that —dog-gone-it.) The junior senator was reacting to what he saw as just plain false assertions in the previous presentation of Senator John Thune, Republican of South Dakota. Thune had dragged out charts and graphs (complete with circles and arrows explaining) to lend validity to his claim that taxes kick in "1,800 days" ahead of any measurable benefits in the Health Care Bill now in debate on the Senate Floor. Franken countered with his plea for a common reality, if not common ground, with what he pointed out was the same advice he had been receiving from opponents to health care reform all year —read the bill.

There was a second exchange on the Senate floor worthy of some notice, as well. This came as the junior senator held the gavel and a certain senator from Connecticut spoke (a senator who has managed to game his bizarre standing as an Independent member of the Democratic caucus, Republican monolithic intransigence, and his own threats of filibuster into unheard of power over the entire senate body). The self anointed one was holding forth when he had come to the end of his allotted time and the junior senator presiding reminded him of the fact. With jowls aflutter at the very affront of being reminded, in his position of high (self) regard, that there were limits, the good senator from Connecticut said in senatorial parlance, 'yeah yeah kid wait a minute I'm almost done.' Senator Franken made it plain that there would be no "unanimous consent" to hearing more. "In my capacity of Senator from Minnesotta I object."

This little exchange sent the next senator slated to speak through the roof. Senator McCain of Arizona had never seen such a thing and he saw it as an affront to "the comity of the senate."

I guess I have to ask if there really is a comity to the senate, or if it isn't more comedy —when someone like Senator Lieberman can threaten to filibuster legislation that contains the very compromises, like an early Medicare buy-in, he was proposing himself only months ago —and when he then presumes his entitlement to the delicacies of decorous debate... isn't that comedy? When charts and graphs —and the falsehoods they depict— are trotted out onto the floor... just how much "comity" should we pretend there is? Or mightn't we be well served by a Senator who knows comedy when he sees it and is willing to call it out by name?