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March, 31st 2011

Jim McDermott, the Constitution and "Silly Things"

– Liz Mair

Jim McDermott, my hometown congressman, is known for being many things: A psychiatrist, a featured interviewee in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, an alleged unwitting spokesperson for Saddam Hussein, and indeed, a civil liberties-minded liberal (like a lot of folks from Seattle). 

The latter McDermott characteristic in fact seems to be part of what inspired him to get involved with Fahrenheit 9/11, and proclaim back in 2004 that by getting the film produced and distributed, "We really saved the Constitution and the Bill of Rights."  (Side note: Sadly, he didn't).

And while I'm not a fan of Michael Moore, as someone who has taken issue with the PATRIOT Act, Bush (and now Obama) administration policy related to surveillance and so on, even though McDermott is well to the left of me and I disagree with him on a wide array of matters (including whether Michael Moore is really cool or not), his interest in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights was something I could at least kind of respect.

But now Jim McDermott doesn't sound all that interested in the Constitution... or in things like getting H.R.1 passed, one of the "silly things" that the House has managed to do in the last 13 weeks.

Gah!

At the end of the day, yes, the GOP House members' Constitution reading plan was probably conceived as an exercise designed to keep the Tea Party happy based on aesthetics and to visually signal to the electorate that they were committed to governing as constitutional conservatives, which many of them claimed to be during the campaign (but which some of us doubt they uniformly are).  And at the end of the day, yes, the governing part is what really matters.

But surely McDermott would agree, after having spent years decrying things like the PATRIOT Act, "warrantless wiretapping," and so on, that Congress might benefit from actually (re-)reading the Constitution, which it seems like a lot of politicians on both sides of the aisle still fail to properly understand?

And surely, he would agree that passing a CR is not a "silly thing" in view of his party's failure to pass a budget when they controlled both chambers of Congress and the White House last year?  And indeed that efforts to defund initiatives that he probably supports are not "silly," but indeed rather serious?

I'm sure the point McDermott was trying to make was that Congress needs to knuckle down on job creation, and so on.  But saying that would have sounded a whole lot less, um, silly coming from McDermott in particular. [intro]

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