Serious People

Look. There are Republicans in Congress who are clearly intelligent people. I may disagree with them strongly, I may think their worldview is paranoid and unfortunate, I may think they’ve been supporting a government contrary to their own stated principles for the past five years and there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to see them removed from office and replaced with a Democrat.

Nonetheless, they clearly understand our system of government, their own responsibilities, rules and procedures, and how things are done. They recognize that what they do is a job and they’re serious about doing it as they feel is right.

Then there are the guys who got in because in the aftermath of 9/11 people were voting for anything with an R after its name and if you gave a halfway competent speech to the Rotary Club you got elected. They spout Freeper talking points and they fear The Arab and The Homosexual and The World Government and they’re just plain not living on the same planet as the rest of us.

This difference was illustrated pretty clearly, I thought, during the Bolton confirmation hearings, during which George Allen, that splendid rubber yam, gave a speech to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in which he blathered on about how if you don’t like John Bolton, you want the UN to be corrupt. It was bumper-sticker discourse at its most mediocre. And Chuck Hagel had to take Allen outside and explain how the world turns:

“If you’re against John Bolton you’re against reform at the United Nations? That’s patently ridiculous. We’re talking about something bigger than just those easy characterizations.”

So I’m not surprised, though I am pleased, to see Hagel smacking Bush/Cheney around today:

“This should be about elevating the debate and enhancing America and finding the solutions that we need to move forward. It doesn’t help when you characterize people who disagree with you or threaten them or characterize them as unpatriotic or not caring about our people or our security. The American people see through that and it is beneath the dignity of this country.”

The obvious rejoinder, of course, is where were you on this when it mattered, Chuck? I admire party loyalty. There comes a time, however, when you simply have to step forward and speak up, and serious Republicans, those who want the respect of the American people and of the opposition, should know it’s long past time for that to occur.