Tom Purcell, 6/25/2007 [Archive]

Will Rogers on Congress

Will Rogers on Congress

By Tom Purcell

People sure are unhappy with Congress. Gallup says its approval rating stands at 14 percent. The timeless wit and wisdom of Will Rogers explains why:

"Congress is so strange; a man gets up to speak and says nothing, nobody listens, and then everybody disagrees."

"We all joke about Congress, but we can't improve on them. Have you noticed that no matter who we elect, he is just as bad as the one he replaces?"

"When Congress makes a joke it's a law, and when they make a law, it's a joke."

Rogers spoke these words in the 1920s and 1930s, but they're just as true now. When voters put Democrats in office, they voted for change -- voted for an end to partisan yapping. But the yapping has gotten worse.

They also voted for Democrats to end the sloppy, arrogant, fiscally irresponsible ways of Republicans, but Democrats were happy to pick right up where the Republicans left off.

As for jokes that are laws and laws that are jokes, is anybody happy with Congress' immigration reform initiatives?

Of course, according to Rogers, there's nothing new about the shenanigans of Congress:

"We cuss Congress, and we joke about 'em, but they are all good fellows at heart, and if they wasn't in Congress, why, they would be doing something else against us that might be even worse."

"Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, they don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous."

That is for certain. There are some nutty ideas floating around in Congress, but so long as they never become laws, no harm is done. And because our government is divided, it's hard for either side to ram any agenda through. The country often runs better when Congress is unable to get things done.

Rogers saved some of his best barbs for the Senate, the allegedly august body of distinguished minds that is supposed to snuff out bad ideas and bills and advance good ones. Though even during Rogers' time, things hardly ever turned out that way:

"About all I can say for the United States Senate is that it opens with a prayer and closes with an investigation."

"Senators are a never-ending source of amusement, amazement and discouragement."

"The Senate just sits and waits till they find out what the president wants, so they know how to vote against him."

I'm amazed that Rogers could describe Sen. Harry Reid some 70 years before Reid became Senate majority leader. Reid truly is a fellow who is "not as narrow-minded as he forces himself to be."

That's what is most agitating about our Congress. Too many members on both sides of the aisle are narrow-minded, partisan and looking to advance their self-interests.

The average American doesn't like that. The average American knows that the country is facing giant challenges -- entitlement programs that are going to bankrupt us, radicals who want to blow us up, spending that has spiraled out of control ...

The average American wants these problems to be solved by people who are interested in the good of their country -- not Republicans and Democrats interested in the good of their parties.

It's no wonder we are disgusted. Of course, according to Rogers, that's nothing new either:

"It's getting so if a man wants to stand well socially, he can't afford to be seen with either the Democrats or the Republicans."

"There is something about a Republican that you can only stand him just so long; and on the other hand, there is something about a Democrat that you can't stand him quite that long."

We can only hope our Congress begins to comprehend what the American people have been trying to tell it -- that it needs to get in step with the wisdom and will of the people.

And that, said Rogers, "our country is not where it is today on account of any one man. It's here on account of the real common sense of the Big Normal Majority."

Tom Purcell is a humor columnist nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons. For comments to Tom, please email him at

RESTRICTIONS: 'Tom Purcell's column may not be reprinted in general circulation print media in Pennsylvania's Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, and Westmoreland Counties. It may appear only in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and its sister publications."

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