The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics -

The agree­ment on the shut­down and the debt ceil­ing is no guar­an­tee that law­mak­ers and the White House will be­have. They are ad­dicted to spec­ta­cle and hand-wring­ing po­lit­i­cal the­ater that gar­ners press cov­er­age, while mask­ing in­ac­tiv­ity or in­de­ci­sion. Once, such in­ci­vil­ity and pos­tur­ing was more of a bad habit or oc­ca­sional em­bel­lish­ment, not the norm. Con­sider that in 1999, a con­tentious U.S. House ac­tu­ally opted to go on a se­ries of bi­par­ti­san re­treats to rem­edy their dis­cord. The press deemed th­ese events “ci­vil­ity re­treats,” du­ti­fully chron­i­cling the at­tempts to iron out dif­fer­ences and seek pro­duc­tive pro­to­cols.

“At the weekend-long ci­vil­ity re­treats in Her­shey, Pa., over 200 mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives de­vel­oped a com­pre­hen­sive, de­tailed por­trait of what wasn’t work­ing on Capi­tol Hill and what needed to be done to fix it,” Mark Ger­zon — the me­di­a­tion con­sul­tant who ac­tu­ally de­signed those re­treats — tells In­side the Belt­way. Frag­ile vic­to­ries were short-lived, though. “How­ever, once they re­turned to Wash­ing­ton, party lead­ers made sure that noth­ing changed. They did not want any­thing to stop them from play­ing the par­ti­san game the old way,” Mr. Ger­zon says.

“Up to a point, the blame game can be a win­ning strat­egy at elec­tion time. The prob­lem is that elec­tion time now never ends. It used to be that politi­cians played by slash-and-burn elec­tion rules for a few months be­fore Novem­ber ev­ery other year. Now they play by the those rules all the time. There is al­most no gov­ern­ing any­more. It is all elec­tion­eer­ing,” he says.

“So the in­ci­vil­ity, dis­hon­esty, and char­ac­ter at­tacks that once were a bad habit dur­ing cam­paign sea­son have be­come a way of life,” Mr. Ger­zon says. to re­main the dom­i­nant par­ties in U.S. gov­ern­ment for more than 150 years. Third par­ties that have emerged to chal­lenge their dom­i­nance have not been able to sus­tain any de­gree of elec­toral suc­cess.”

No com­ment yet from the tea party, the Lib­er­tar­i­ans, the Green Party or the Con­sti­tu­tion Party, in­ci­den­tally. of faith are very com­plex. When you cover them as a jour­nal­ist, you sim­ply can’t, I feel, stereo­type some­body as fit­ting into a box.”

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