It's unlikely that German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck actually made the famous observation that, "laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made." It's a good quote, though, and if he didn't say it, someone would have--if not in Germany, then definitely in regards to Congress.
As BW headed to press Sept. 30, we were counting down the hours until the United States government would be shut down on Republicans' opposition to health care reform.
For all the rhetoric--including 21 hours of uninterrupted bloviation by Tea Party maven and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz--the "shutdown showdown" is a hostage situation. Republicans have tried to kill Obamacare since it was in the cradle and, despite losing more than two dozen attempts to stop it, it is law. Failing to overturn it on its merits, they're trying to strangle it with the federal purse strings--refusing to vote on key budget measures unless Obamacare is dismembered. In the process, they threaten federal workers and the economy as a whole.
This kind of politics could be called "making sausage" if sausage making required an air strike and a wood chipper.
Regardless of what happens at midnight on Oct. 1, we've reached another low in American politics--stable countries don't shut down their governments over legislative squabbles, and a party that would intentionally force such a failure obviously cares more about achieving its own ends than anything so high-minded as representative democracy.
This kind of reckless political self-interest would have been unthinkable to an earlier generation of leaders--certainly to public servants like Pete T. Cenarrusa, who served in Idaho government for more than 50 years and passed away at age 95 on Sept. 29. Though a Republican, Cenarrusa worked with late-Democratic U.S. Sen. Frank Church on issues related to the Basque population in Spain and supported the candidacy of Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, also a Democrat.
As secretary of state, he served the law rather than his party--particularly in the case of the Sunshine Initiative, a measure that voters put on the ballot in 1974 to require campaign finance disclosure. Of course, the Republican-majority Legislature was vehemently opposed, but that didn't matter to Cenarrusa. As he often pointed out, he worked for the people.
In today's GOP, Cenarrusa may well have been branded a traitor. Politics might be the art of the possible, to borrow an authentic phrase from Bismarck, but, sadly, it's not likely that today's politics would make a Cenarrusa possible.