Bipartisanship and the Lott/Feinstein Love-fest

June 25, 2007

In their joint appearance on “Fox News Sunday,” Sens. Trent Lott and Dianne Feinstein unwittingly gave a seminar on the corrupting influence of governmental power, the “bipartisanship is a virtue” myth and the urgent need for term limits.

During their interview, which was billed as a “rematch” but more closely resembled a love fest, the senators seemed to agree with each other way more than they disagreed — and this from legislators reputed to be ideological opposites.

The senators were busy congratulating themselves over their collegiality and how nice senators looked during Seersucker Suit Week in the Senate, and commenting on the ignorance of American talk show listeners.

While I’m no fan of incivility, I would have felt far better represented if these two lovebirds had engaged in heated debate and at least one of them demonstrated the faintest connection with us mortals outside the governing class.

Speaking of which, host Chris Wallace asked Lott about his recent statement that “senators on both sides of the aisle are being pounded by these talk radio people who don’t even know what’s in the bill.”

Though Lott lamely attempted to weasel out of his statement, he did nothing to restore his credibility on this issue. Nor did he apologize for or retract it.

Unlike the Senate, which has tried to ramrod this bill through with an unprecedented lack of hearings, talk radio has been informative and hosted a serious, substantive dialogue on the bill. It is not the ever-demonized talk radio that is casting about disparaging barbs like “racism” and “nativism” to tar its opponents. It is politicians and other high-browed commentators whose commonality is demonstrated by their shared arrogance.

Both senators argued, typically, that any action on the immigration bill is better than none. Sadly, career politicians of both parties too often believe America’s continued greatness depends on their proactive, energetic governance and superior knowledge and moral judgment.

When politicians behave as though they believe governance is about them rather than representing the competing interests of people with largely different worldviews, something is way out of kilter. The Framers never anticipated governance without conflict or controversy, but structured the system precisely to accommodate the vigorous presentation of competing interests.

Besides, when we see legislative compromise like we have with the various iterations of the immigration bill, we can be sure that conservatives are getting the short end of the stick. When so-called conservative senators bend over backward to accommodate the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy and earn his lavish praise, we know all we need to know about the “wisdom” of this bill and what it portends for the national interest.

When “conservatives” jump in bed with politicians who view “multiculturalism,” “diversity” and “tolerance” as the highest virtues, on a major piece of legislation that would advance those ideas while targeting for dilution the unique American culture and the primacy of the English language, something is radically wrong.

These legislators can continue to tout bipartisanship and collegiality as the highest goals of government. Likewise, others unschooled in history, the Constitution, politics and human nature can swoon over the seductive, but mindless prospect of political leaders like Ross Perot, and perhaps Michael Bloomberg, who come along from time to time and promise to deliver America from the evils of partisanship and bickering.

But I’d prefer a little realism to such empty promises and nonsense any day. Politicians who pretend they will bring such harmony about controversial, weighty issues are either ignorant of politics and human nature or are so incorrigibly arrogant that they believe the manifest superiority of their ideas, once properly explained, will usher in universal consensus and goodwill.

But as for the two senators at hand, I’d far rather have seen them engaged in a spirited exchange over issues they couldn’t possibly agree on so readily if they truly reflected the polar opposite views held by their respective constituents.

I’d have a much warmer, fuzzier feeling if Sen. Lott had demanded explanations from Sen. Feinstein concerning her party’s refusal to approach the war on terror as if it were a war, our enemies as if they were enemies and the immigration issue as if preservation of our culture and national security matter.

But if the two just couldn’t resist discussing “bipartisanship,” I’d have felt much better if Sen. Lott, in between kiss-blowings had asked Sen. Feinstein why her party refused to leave politics and partisanship at the water’s edge.

Until we have answers to these questions and to the mystery of how legislators with ostensibly opposite ideologies can so easily agree on controversial issues, I think we can dispense with lectures from the governing class, which, in my view, has outstayed its welcome.