According to CBS News, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., recently called the Senate the “most dysfunctional place I've ever been in my life” as he urged his fellow lawmakers to “quit bashing each other” and engage in a civilized discourse over the deficit. Corker has also criticized President Obama for suggesting that bombing Libya does not qualify as “hostilities” under the War Powers Resolution (which reminds me of Bill Clinton’s verbal contortions over the meaning of the word “is” ).
When Corker criticizes his fellow politicians, he’s in good company. Here’s what one of America’s wisest men, Mark Twain, had to say on the subject:
“There is probably no distinctly American criminal class, except Congress.”
“Reader, suppose you were an idiot. Now suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.”
Will Rogers was another wise (and funny) man with a low opinion of Congress and American politicians in general:
“A fool and his money are soon elected.”
“The U.S. Senate opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation.”
“There ought to be one day, just one, when there is open season on senators.”
“Congress in session is like when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”
Rogers also pointed out the Achilles heel of American-style representative government:
“Anything important is never left to the vote of the people. We only get to vote on some man; we never get to vote on what he is to do.”
Ronald Reagan chimed in with funny-but-unfortunately-true observations:
“Politics is the second oldest profession. It bears a very close resemblance to the first.”
“I wonder what the Ten Commandments would look like if Moses had run them through Congress.”
It’s bad enough when our government squanders taxpayer money at home, far worse when we go bankrupt waging war in futile attempts to “reform” other countries. Does it make any sense whatsoever for American politicians to waste thousands of lives and trillions of dollars exporting something they’re not good at themselves (i.e., democracy)?
Here’s Will Rogers again:
“If there's one thing we do worse than any other nation, it's managing somebody else's affairs.”
“Liberty doesn't work as well in practice as it does in speeches.”
“The United States never lost a war or won a conference.”
“I have a scheme for stopping war: No nation can enter a war till it's paid for the last one.”
Albert Einstein also offered words to the wise:
“I don't know about World War III, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”
John F. Kennedy concurred, saying:
“Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.”
Oscar Wilde, the greatest of the epigrammatists, was probably too heretical for the majority of Americans, but struck at the heart of the current wars:
“Whenever a man does a thoroughly stupid thing, it is always from the noblest motives.”
“A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.”
If American politics has a saving grace, perhaps it’s that we can laugh till it hurts, as we barrel toward Armageddon.
Michael R. Burch is a Nashville-based editor and publisher of Holocaust poetry and other “things literary” at www.thehypertexts.com.