The Silly Season
On Capitol Hill, presidential elections years are sometimes called "the silly season." That's because our system of government places 535 of the most intensely political, competitive people in the United States in one building at a time when presidential politics permeate the air — and while the entire House and one third of the Senate is focused on how they are going to keep their cushy jobs.
Even seemingly simple matters become complex, because each side is trying to decide if there is some way to gain political advantage on the other. It doesn't help that many of our elected leaders are lawyers — a group trained thoroughly in the art of arguing.
So, we should not be surprised when work on the Hill gets a little backed up during an election year. We should be surprised that anything gets done at all.
Right now, of course, the largest impediment to progress on just about any front is the United States Senate where the Republicans hold the majority by the slimmest possible margin. If any one Democrat threatens a filibuster, it takes 60 votes (not 51) to move forward. If the Democrats remain cohesive — and they usually do — then nothing gets done without serious compromise. And guess what? No one likes to compromise much in an election year.
You can't blame the Senate Democrats, really. Outnumbered in Washington right now, they see the Senate as the only place where they have any hope of slowing down a Republican agenda. But, it does get exasperating at times to watch even the smallest matters get hung up in political gamesmanship.
Money, Money, Money
Wow! John Kerry is raising money by the boatloads. The newest reports available show that presumptive Democratic nominee John Kerry raised twice as much money as President Bush during April. Kerry's campaign raised $30 million compared to Mr. Bush's $15.6 million.
Now it is true that the president has a lot more money on hand, but it is also true that his campaign has been spending more money, especially on expensive TV advertising. Right now, Mr. Bush has $71.6 million in the bank, and John Kerry has $28 million. But if Kerry keeps raising twice as much money as Bush — and Bush keeps spending money at the current rate — well, this money game could get very interesting.
Finally, here in Washington, we are being overrun by cicadas. To my readers west of the Mississippi, this may not sound like a big deal. When I was a kid in Texas, we had cicadas every summer. But, the East Coast variety of cicada only emerge once every 17 years — by the billions — all at once. They're everywhere! For four weeks, they will eat, mate, drone loudly and then die. They last emerged when Ronald Reagan was president. George W. Bush was only forty when our friends last visited; he had not even yet become the manager of the Texas Rangers in 1987.
Cicada-mania has been a fun diversion here in Washington. The red-eyed creatures have given us something to talk about amid the sometimes-grim news. But, if you think we're a little buggy here in Washington — for the next few weeks at least — we have an excuse.
See you Sunday on "Weekend Live" (Noon - 2 pm ET / 9 am - 11 am PT)