Bob Gates on the Ugly Ineptitude of Congress
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has some very strong opinions on the functionality of the modern Congress. He does not condemn every single member of Congress, clearly he respects at least a few, but views the entity overall as dysfunctional. This surprises few of us. Nevertheless, as one who has dealt with Congress live and up close, the opinions he formed based on personal experience should carry a great deal of weight with folks who see partisanship as the only way to get the people’s business accomplished:
Congress is best viewed from a distance- the farther the better- because up close it is truly ugly. And nearly every day I was secretary, I was dealing with Congress up close.
I suppose I should have known better going in, but I was constantly amazed and infuriated at the hypocrisy of those who attacked the Defense Department for being inefficient and wasteful but would fight tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in defense activities in their home state or district no matter how inefficient or wasteful.
A second source of frustration, as you might suspect, was the failure of Congress to do its most basic job: appropriate money. This was an outrageous dereliction of duty.
Uncivil, incompetent in fulfilling basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned, often putting self (and reelection) before country- this was my view of the majority of the United States Congress.
Progress in America historically has come from thinkers and ideologues on both the left and the right, but the best of those ideas have been enacted into law through compromise. Now moderation is equated with lacking principals, and compromise with “selling out.”
Addressing the country’s most intractable and complex problems requires consistent strategies and their implementation across multiple presidencies and congresses, and that requires bipartisanship.
Another congressional change for the worse has been the shift to a three-day work week- Tuesday through Thursday. Now, with barely three days in town each week, they barely know members of their own party, let alone others from across the aisle. It’s hard to build trust and the relationships necessary to get things done under these circumstances. Block quote excerpted from Robert M. Gates, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War 579-583 (Knopf Doubleday Group, 2014)
One hopes that in the future, Mr. Gates will really open up and not sugarcoat his opinions. 😉 – Grizzly Joe