Editorial: Our man in Big Washington

Next Tuesday, Aug. 27, Rappahannock’s congressman, Rep. Robert Hurt, will be visiting our newspaper. He is a brave man, for past words in this editorial space have often been critical of his actions while in Big Washington representing Rappahannock and the rest of the 5th congressional district.

Thus I look forward to a lively and substantive conversation. But the discussion shouldn’t be limited to what we here at the newspaper think is important, so we welcome your suggestions for general topics and/or specific questions. (Email info@rappnews.com or stop by our Fourth Estate Friday. Details in The Rapp on page 1.)

With public approval of Congress now at an all-time low — 14 percent, according to the latest Gallup poll  — I’m curious if Rep. Hurt has read the book entitled “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.” It’s written by two long-time, well-respected students of how Big Washington works (or in this case doesn’t work!) — Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution and Norman J. Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute.

Neither author can be characterized as leftist, nor does the book let Democrats off the hook; but its most damning indictment is of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives, of which Rep. Hurt is a willing participant and enabler:

“An insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Why, for example, has Rep. Hurt joined his fellow Republicans to vote 40 times — count ‘em, that’s 40 times! — to repeal Obamacare when there is so much new, urgent business that needs his attention? No matter how bad he thinks Obamacare is, could it really be worse than our current “socialized medicine,” whereby those with insurance subsidize the emergency health care of those without insurance?

And no matter how bad he believes Obamacare to be, could it really be worse than the Republicans’ threatened shutdown of the government if they don’t get their way? The uncertainty born of governmental dysfunction is the kind of “medicine” that can kill the patient, in this instance the nation’s fragile economic recovery.

Walter Nicklin