Congress is retarded

All this debt ceiling buffoonery brings to mind a shamelessly derivative and awesome fable I once wrote.* And through the magical series of tubes known as the Internet, here it is:

On the first of January under cover of darkness in the Constitution Gardens of Washington, DC there assembled a Great Delegation. Animals of every shape and size, duly appointed representatives of their sovereignty and citizenry, came from far and wide to discuss matters of great import, of law and land and life itself.

Amidst the raucous chatter such a gathering will invariably produce the arrival of a mere fly would seem decidedly noncircumspect, but the presiding owl chose just such an occasion to silence this cacophonous caucus with a piercing glare and an emphatic HOOT.

“Fellow delegates,” he intoned. “I call your attention to a most brave and knowledgeable fly, who at my request has spent the last three days in secret observation of the United States Congress, that he may learn the ways of the Great Society!”

A reverential hush fell over the crowd. The Great Society were the most accomplished of all animals, and the United States Congress was their most prolific governing body. Surely much could be gained by adopting their means and methods.

Due to the fly in question’s meager stature one with powerful auditory capabilities would be needed to relay his acquired knowledge, and so an elephant delegate lumbered to the front of the crowd. The fly flew deep into one of the elephant’s cavernous ears and for a long time regaled him with tales of filibusters and cloture and quorum calls and all manner of rules of governance the Great Society, in their rightly presumed wisdom, had seen fit to implement.

The elephant grew bored, listening at infrequent intervals and with less-than-rapt attention. When it was time for him to impart the fly’s words to his animal brethren he tried to recall them as best he could, filling in the gaps with his own reasonable assumptions.

“Our fly friend has taught me of a procedural motion those of the Great Society use called Fill It, Buster.”

“What does it mean, to Fill It, Buster?” wondered a goose.

“Well,” replied the always-thinking elephant, “It must surely mean that if any one of us objects to a proposed law, Buster the dog must fill their empty head with conviction!”

Upon little consideration this made perfect sense to all the animals but Buster the dog, who was understandably rather perplexed.

“But wait,” cried a rooster. “What if Buster finds himself unable to convince our wayward friend of a law’s merit?”

“Ah,” nodded the elephant. “We must hope that he does. For the only way to overcome an unsuccessful Fill It, Buster is to make use of the poacher option.”

The crowd let out a collective gasp – the thought of employing a hunter to kill an objecting delegate understandably worried them all, not the least Buster the dog, who was feeling an ever-increasing and unwelcome burden in all of this.

“Continuing,” continued the elephant, “for any vote to take place amongst us there must first be a korum call.”

“But what is a-” A cow was interrupted even as she spoke.

“Come now!” interjected the elephant in a haughty tone. “Plainly a korum call is when the members of the Great Society utter their own distinctive noise, as a cow moos or an owl hoots.”

Even as he spoke the other animals remembered that those of the Great Society did indeed make a distinctive ‘korum’ call, although none of them had ever heard it for themselves.

With the elephant’s proclamations in mind the animals set about crafting legislation for the upcoming year, keeping in mind the great rules of the Great Society they had now been made privy to. The resulting next few days of legislating were a disaster – animals consistently made Fill It, Buster motions, many of whom were promptly gunned down by appointed poachers after an exhausted Buster the dog had failed to convince them of this bill or that bill’s worthiness. Further, many of the animals struggled to produce an effective ‘korum’ call, and so it was hotly debated whether many votes should even be allowed to take place.

The other animals eventually confronted the elephant.

“This is madness!” cried a raccoon. “Surely you must have misheard our fly friend.”

“To think that the Great Society would adopt these silly procedures,” chided a fox, “Is absurd!”

And so the elephant somewhat begrudgingly went back to the fly and asked him to re-explain all he had explained before – this time the elephant listened quite carefully to each word. After which he once again addressed the delegation:

“My fellow animals, you were correct. The true ways of the Great Society were lost in translation, and for that I most sincerely apologize. Here are the true ways of those who lord over this world: a filibuster means that when any one of us objects to a proposed law he can talk and talk and keep talking for as long as he wants, about whatever he wants, in order to keep the law from passing. The only way to stop this is to vote on cloture, meaning we must have a supermajority of delegates voting for him to be quiet. And a quorum call means there must be a certain number of us present at the time of a vote for the vote to count.”

The animals nodded their heads at these corrections and went back to the work of lawmaking, but even quicker than before they again confronted the elephant.

“These rules are even more stupid than the first ones you told us!” blistered a lemur.

“Why, I’ve never heard any stupider!” huffed a fox.

“He thinks the Great Society, the most accomplished of all beings would implement these silly rules?” scoffed a monkey. “Our elephant friend may have large ears, but his brain is as small as that fly!”

At this the animals laughed heartily, all except the elephant, who turned a crimson red from embarrassment. Angrily, he swatted his trunk at the fly, who had plainly told him nonsense.

The fly buzzed away indignantly. Eventually even the elephant couldn’t help but join in the laughter of the other animals – looking back on it, he decided, he hadn’t heard anything stupider.

* Saying “I once wrote” is fantastically self-inflating, like Chicken Soup for the Starving Ego. I recommend everyone try it!

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