Politicians use standard phrases to protect themselves while throwing mud at someone else. For example, “bipartisanship” means one or two people from one side of the aisle joined the other side in defiance of their party’s jackboot. Or “compromise”, meaning: “This bill is too complex and rife with unrelated line items for anyone to agree with, but we held our noses and voted for it anyway.” See immigration reform or campaign finance reform.
My favorite is “playing politics”. Roberts Rules of Order requires all politicians to say this at least 10 times a day. Aside from the obvious irony – like accusing someone of playing politics while engaging in party-motivated politics themselves – the statement is actually an apology for doing their job. One definition of politics is, “The art or science of government or governing, especially the governing of a political entity, such as a nation, and the administration and control of its internal and external affairs.”
Did I Miss Something?
Isn’t that what politicians are supposed to do or did I miss something?
They took up this mantra to hornswaggle voters into thinking politicians are nothing but poor, downtrodden victims. “Those evil guys from the other side brought this up just to embarrass me. True, I feel the same way, but my responsibility to party government trumps my responsibility to govern the nation.” There’s not necessarily anything wrong with playing politics. It’s the way our democracy works and is essential to get things done. The problem is when politicians use “playing politics” as a synonym for “obstruction”, wherein a politician obstructs issues through pure spite or overwhelming party loyalty. See Gonzales no confidence vote or any debate about Iraq.
But perhaps the saddest thing about “playing politics” is the way voters are so accustomed to the stupid charge they no longer question it. If they do, they support the charge more often than not. Mitch McConnell’s disingenuous condemnation of the Gonzales no confidence vote is a case in point. Democrats didn’t introduce the bill solely to embarrass republicans. They introduced it because the AG from hell has palpable problems – something many republicans agree on. Democrats introduced it to counter-balance a recalcitrant president who refuses to admit he has a problem. That’s not playing politics, that’s firing a symbolic warning shot across Admiral Asshat’s bow in an attempt to get him to sit up and take notice. There’s scant evidence he will, but at least democrats can rightfully say they tried everything.
What About Harry?
And Harry Reid doesn’t get off either. He’s a serial repeater of the playing politics game. When Mitch pitched the round above, Harry was right there, bat in hand, ready to say the republicans were all rabid obstructionists, obfuscating the fact that at least some of them don’t have a problem with Gonzo – although I’m at a loss to explain why.
So the next time you see El Jefe standing in front of a row of telegenic soldiers to charge democrats with playing politics with Iraq or Harry Reid giving a school master scolding to republicans for opposing something he wants – think. If you unquestionably accept these charges, you’re being hornswaggled…
And I have a great used car to sell you…