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Susan Estrich
15 Apr 2015
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10 Apr 2015
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Congress Acts

Comment

Has a fever come over Washington? It seems like every time I turned around this week, Congress — or at least some subset of it — was actually doing something. Was it just yesterday that they were agreeing to let the president try to negotiate within the framework of a nuclear deal with Iran? And then, barely hours later, the Senate committees that write tax bills agreed to give the president "fast track" authority, which would allow him to negotiate a trade deal with 11 other Pacific nations and would limit the power to amend in the "up or down" vote that would come later.

Now, mind you, nothing has actually been done here. Watching the president last week in Panama trying to explain that all that he was asking for was approval of a framework — which everyone on all sides agreed was the best framework we could get, other than Iran just saying we don't want nuclear power, which was not going to happen — was almost painful. If this is the best possible framework, and if all we're talking about here is a framework, and if members are later free to reject any agreement that results, if any agreement does result, then what is there to fight about? Or celebrate about?

Likewise, we don't have a trade deal here. We don't even have a deal about a deal. All we have is an agreement that if there is a deal reached, it won't be amended to death. Good news, although if amendment to death were really in the offing, then a "no" vote would seem to be a foregone conclusion.

In other words, in two major developments this week, various members of Congress agreed to actually wait until some concrete measure was before them before they denounced it and everyone who had anything to do with it.

They did what we teach our children to do: listen before you say no. Hold open the possibility of agreement. Let process be a tool that guides us toward reaching agreement. Don't insist on grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

The truth is these were easy deals, or should have been, because it's the hard part that comes next, which is the actual terms of the agreements, not the ideal of reaching them. The terms matter not only to us, but to our closest allies, including Israel. It may not be possible. But how could it not be worth it at least to try?

The problem these days is that disagreement has become so common that it's often hard to tell the real ones from the ones that are, quite literally, made for television. Watching legislation being crafted has been compared to sausage-making for decades, during which time public opinion about sausage has surely improved more than public opinion about legislation. Maybe Congress would do better if we did watch more closely and get out of our familiar partisan poses.

Sometimes, when one of those so-called "experts" who is actually expert only in flackery looks deeply into the camera, you might make the mistake of thinking they know what they are talking about and are emoting from a place of deep passion. Nope. These kids are practicing for TV. Check the bio and there's no "expertise," just a few jobs as a campaign flack. So why are you explaining foreign policy to me? Perhaps the notes under the person's name should include: "never had a paying job" or "only consulted to himself." At least give us a break and tell us when the lines are coming straight from the talking points!

Really, it shouldn't be a story (or a column) that Congress has agreed not to damn a potential plan before it even sees it. That's just good manners.

To find out more about Susan Estrich and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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Comments

3 Comments | Post Comment
Nom the real problem is that we have in Barack Obama and in John Kerry a President and a Secretary of State respectively who are both proven track record of being opportunists and pathological liars,(as was Clinton) who each hold true animus for the constitutional Republic of the United States, who each want to see America taken down and neither of whom can be trusted in any way shape or form to act in the best interests of America.
Prima facie then, any framework, deal, deal about a deal is tainted with deserving suspicion, particularly when, neither of them are prepared to speak the truth even about a framework.
Comment: #1
Posted by: joseph wright
Fri Apr 17, 2015 7:41 AM
Journalists owe it to their audiences to begin exposing why Congress is so responsive to a foreign power. Mondoweiss
Comment: #2
Posted by: steveM
Fri Apr 17, 2015 9:06 AM
"Good manners" in congress! WOW!!!
Comment: #3
Posted by: Oldtimer
Mon Apr 20, 2015 11:07 AM
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