Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) used her few moments on C-SPAN to express disappointment about the current level of debate:
"Madam Speaker, I rise tonight after another long day out of disappointment--disappointed that we are not having a real debate about how we win in Iraq. We have spent countless hours in what is little more than political theater.
This body is scheduled to meet 145 days this year. Just to open our doors, we spend over $8 million for each legislative day. This debate will cost some $30 million, yet it will yield nothing but a partisan vote on a nonbinding resolution after literally hundreds of speeches designed to do no more than charge up one's own political base.
I am deeply disappointed. The people expect more from us. They expect solutions, not grandstanding. They expect both parties to work together. There will be no victory when our votes are tallied. We will have every problem we began with, but be even further apart politically.
Tonight, I believe we embarrass ourselves before our brave men and women in uniform, before the American people and before our enemies."
Rep. Schmidt longs for a more serious discourse about what to do in Iraq, but has yet to offer any proposals of her own. Schmidt would obviously declare illegitemate any debate whose overriding theme did not involve discussing "how we win in Iraq," but that doesn't make the point that she raised any less valid.
If her numbers are correct, Congress just expended $30 million so that each member would have his/her own tightly-worded soundbite for a press release. None of those statements swayed any votes; they just provided political news feed for the local nightlies and cable networks.
The Dems obviously wanted dramatically-embellished condemnations to win them support from an electorate becoming increasing disillusioned by the war. Their majority party political maneuverings also afforded the opportunity to force Republicans to go on the record for or against the surge--an uncomfortable decision for some party loyalists facing a majority of voting constituents personally, and often strongly, opposed to any escalation of the war.
For those with an uncertain hold on their seat, statements made a delicate dance around support for the troops, sending signals of weakness to the enemy, and criticizing the Democrats. But for the Yea or Nay portion of the quiz, none could avoid being anything but direct.
Of course Schmidt voted against the resolution, as did all but 17 Republicans.
Political theater is right. One with an estimated $30 million production value, whose audience--next year's voters--slept through until the finale.
The critics--27 other geeks like me who watch way too much C-SPAN--wish the script had been written with greater depth and meaning. The performances were shallow, blustering, laughable. This week may have only been the rehearsal, if the Dems decide to revise and try again for something with more substance.