Friday, May 13, 2005

A Paradise for Bullies

John Podhoretz has some relevant observations about the Senate and the abusive process they have developed from "advise and consent."

In the midst of controversy, the Senate frequently uses its authority in appalling ways — by engaging in unanswerable character assassination. The assassination is unanswerable by definition because those whose characters are being assassinated are required by the dynamic of the Senate to behave respectfully toward those who are dragging their names through the mud.

There is something profoundly immoral about all this. Increasingly, it seems, strong-willed people with strong views must submit themselves to the humiliation of standing mute while they are excoriated for their life's work — and while senators and their staffs go hunting for personal dirt on them.

It's not a fair fight. It's a proxy fight. The nominees are often stand-ins for the administration whom the senators wish to bloody — as is the case with John Bolton and the Democrats.

Other times, a nominee becomes an occasion for a senator to perform a holier-than-thou tap-dance. Such was the case yesterday with John Bolton and the Republican senator from Ohio, George Voinovich, who insulted and attacked Bolton without ever having bothered to attend one of the committee hearings in which Bolton testified.

It was comic to hear Voinovich describe Bolton as a "bully" yesterday, because the only bullying in sight was being done by Voinovich — attacking somebody who can't attack back.

And Voinovich himself knows something about bullying. In 1995, when he was governor of Ohio, he had a temper tantrum at an airport because his plane was kept on the ground while Air Force One was in the sky.

He ordered his pilot to take off, screaming at air traffic controllers all the while and daring them to "shoot us down." In an unprecedented act, Voinovich was actually fined by the Federal Aviation Administration for his behavior.

He's still at it in the United States Senate. And why not? The Senate is paradise for bullies.

I didn't know that little detail about Voinovich. Just yesterday I heard a democratic senator call him "one of the most decent people in the senate." Of course, they were trying to use him as an example of how extreme all the other republicans are.

I spent some time as a young doctor lobbying Congress [I was a national officer in an Intern and Resident Association that wanted to be able to legally collectively bargain with hospitals--those were the days when interns were paid $10,000-12,000 to work 80+ hours a week].

It has been some years since then, but I will tell you that one my strongest memories of that time is the uniform arrogance, elitism, and complete and total demagoguery of every, single "Member" (that's what they call themselves, and it fits). Ordinary mortals are not allowed to even ride in the same elevators as these god-like creatures we pathetic humans elect to serve us.

There is a description of a disorder called "Acquired Situational Narcissism" which seems to apply to many of our elected officials. If you take someone with a few narcissistic traits (and what politician doesn't have them?) and put them in a situation where they are adored, worshipped, and make to think (by the adoring and worshipping staff) that they are the center of the universe; and that words from their mouth are the font of all wisdom and knowledge--you would get something similar to the grandstanding meatheads we see every day on our TV screens.

We must hope that the blogsphere is not a situation where this type of narcissism can also flourish--but then, that is the function of our trolls, isn't it? We can never become so enamored of our own words when there is always someone around who sees it in their job description to remind us what idiots we are.

I can recommend a few for Senator Voinovich.

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