If there's one thing in politics that the American people agree on, it's that Congress sucks. Their approval rating hovers around 20 percent, giving them the same credibility as a dentist who doesn't recommend sugarless gum. However, C-SPAN deserves a lot of the blame. Despite having virtually no viewers, the network lets people see democracy at work, and these days democracy has taken a job as a failed prop comic with the speaking ability of a 10th grader. It's no surprise then that they give you acts with ...
#5. A Big Can of Campbell's Soup
C-SPAN, famous for its shows Murmuring in the Background and Special Subcommittee on Aging, is supposed to be commercial-free, but that didn't stop Representative Joe Crowley from going Andy Warhol on everyone. Responding to an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, he compared the GOP plan to a diet of Campbell's soup, turning what should have been a passing joke by Bill Maher into an entire diatribe. In his speech, he somehow managed to sputter out "chicken noodle soup" more times than a vagabond auctioneer at a can swap and concluded by saying that while soup is "mmm-mmm good," the GOP plan is "mmm-mmm bad." If you take out the occasional peppering of words like "Affordable Care Act," you're left with nothing more than a full-fledged endorsement of Campbell's.
If Warhol's love of amphetamines had inspired Joe more than the soup painting, it would have been a better speech.
#4. A Stocking With Coal
When the GOP was threatening not to extend payroll tax cuts last year, Representative Jim McDermott summoned the ghost of Christmas past to bring out his old stocking-and-coal gag. Meandering up to the podium with these holiday props, he gave a speech that sounded like a pill-induced scolding from a grandparent complete with a total verbal malfunction in the middle. He chided the Republicans for effectively giving coal to children "all around the world," because nothing says "I'm speaking to adults" better than taking seriously a myth that parents tell their children when they want them to behave.
"Just be glad it isn't Easter, or this would've gotten weird."
#3. Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez
Representative Luis Gutierrez, confusing his constituents with prepubescent girls, brought out images of Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, among others, to illustrate the differences between legal and illegal immigrants. He said he was appealing to the young C-SPAN viewers, which is like saying you're trying to appeal to unicorns, elves, or ugly Cracked readers. His well-intentioned point -- that just because you look one way doesn't mean you're illegal -- was completely lost as he degenerated into a '90s Howard Stern Show bit of "name the immigrant" with the American public.
"Both of these people are immigrants, and ... well, shit. Maybe we should throw 'em all out."
#2. A Real-Life Political Cartoon
Some people like using metaphors to explain their point; others, like Representative Tom Latham, require you to sit still while they clumsily present oversized props to violently shove down your throat like you were Mark Wahlberg in Three Kings. In his crusade against subtlety, Latham brought out a big box decorated as a present to China from the U.S. Congress. Inside was a hardhat reading "American Jobs," because simply saying "This bill will send jobs to China" was too confusing for people to grasp. You may think that this was just some good ol' McDermott-style holiday rabble-rousing, but the allure of the Christmas present metaphor was so irresistible that he did it in June.
Tom Latham via C-Span
"Some props are timeless. This one isn't, but some are."
#1. A Baby
When Congress first attempted to tackle the Affordable Care Act in 2009, everyone behaved in a civil manner to come to a bipartisan agreement. No wait -- Congress went apeshit, to the point where Representative John Shadegg used someone's baby as a prop. He introduced the baby and said, "Maddie likes America because we have freedom here, and Maddie believes in patient choice health care." In a scene straight from Ben Franklin's nightmares, Shadegg's minute-long speech is a hellish train wreck of pandering, insanity, and embarrassment. His fellow representatives can barely suppress their own snickering, while Maddie, despite being unaware of intricacies in health law, still has enough sense to keep knocking the microphone away in a desperate attempt to end the farce that was foisted upon her. After turning a baby into a ventriloquist's puppet in Congress, Shadegg left the House in 2011, presumably to devote his time to washing the layers of shame off himself.
One person in this picture has some semblance of dignity, and it isn't any of the people who understand how a flush toilet works.
For slightly less ridiculous politics, you can visit Steve's blog.