WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The army of newly elected Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives will be arriving here this coming week. They've already capsized the proverbial political apple cart. Now they're ready to change the nation, or so they say. But they're about to encounter the stark realities of life in the nation's capital.
I'm optimistic about their policy goals and their determination to change the way the House operates. But their bright-eyed good intentions need to be checked with this warning: Serving in Congress is like attending the endless, wretched traveling show that most of us know as Cirque du Soleil.
First, you have to make your way past the barricades and the checkpoints and the haughty French-Canadian attitudes. Then you and the other ticket-holders are subjected to the frustration of getting to enjoy startlingly talented acts by the performers who, even as they dazzle, don't seem to ever accomplish any real purpose.
The new House GOP leadership says there will be a reading of the U.S. Constitution on the floor of the House. Perhaps more importantly, they've also decided to require that every piece of legislation must be accompanied by a statement about its specific point of constitutionality. That's refreshing. Whether it will ultimately work is something no one can know yet.
These eager House members must know that for every recitation of the Constitution, there will be the appearance of someone like New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner. He's swiftly emerging as the most pugnacious, arrogant and ill-informed member of Congress.
Over the last 30 years, I've seen most every typecast of political character cross the national stage, in both the House and the Senate. Some were just old lawyers who'd grown eccentric with age. The late Sen. Robert Byrd used to converse with people -- other than fellow senators -- by often talking to them without looking at them. He would only shift his eyes occasionally to check to see if his listener was paying proper homage to his Olympian wisdom.
Barry Goldwater is now (accurately) known as the original architect of the modern conservative movement. In his final years, he was driving a car outfitted with the latest spy equipment. He also brandished a cane with which he would occasionally whack Senate staffers too slow to get out of his path.
And I won't even detail the antics of Strom Thurmond, who was notorious for trying to take an inventory of the undergarments of practically every woman gullible enough to let him hug them.
These men were simply characters. Anthony Weiner isn't. He's simply an obnoxious dunderhead. During a debate over the extension of the Bush tax cuts, his answer to every question was nothing more than the standard stock answer about unjustly giving tax breaks to millionaires and billionaires.
As I pointed out in this column a few weeks back, over 70 percent of these "millionaires and billionaires" are simply people who make more than $250,000 a year in salary.
But that doesn't' deter Weiner. He now mounts the bully pulpit of national political TV shows to preach his tired brand of redistribution of wealth, and to do so in as abrasive a style as possible. Something tells me Weiner is rapidly becoming the next king of fools on Capitol Hill.
Both Weiner and his bushy-tailed Republican foes find a historical parallel with the people and events of the 1990s. Newt Gingrich rose to prominence by being simultaneously outspoken and also by forcing the then-Democratic House speaker out of office for corruption. Gingrich was then young and (some said) bombastic. But he was never rude to media, as Weiner routinely is.
Next came the 1994 Republican Revolution. The GOP put forth a Contract With America, and on virtually every point of the contract, corresponding legislation was passed by the House.
This is where my analogy of Congress to Cirque du Soleil comes back into play. Having recently sat in a tent and watched this circus of acrobats and clowns and other assorted performers, I was reminded of the newest Republican members of Congress. Will they break the silence of routine performance, burst through the tent and breach the barricades? Or will they be forced to spend the next two years having to listen to a talking clown who now promises to dominate the airwaves? Spare us all.
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