Friday, January 05, 2007

Profiles in Pettiness

I just realized what seemed so off about yesterday's opening of the 110th Congress.

It would have made sense for Denny Hastert, the outgoing speaker of the house to hand the gavel to Nancy Pelosi. There would have been a precedent for it, after all. In 1955, the last time Democrats took over the House from the GOP, outgoing speaker Joe Martin of Massachusetts handed the gavel to Texan Sam Rayburn (In 1994, outgoing speaker Tom Foley lost his bid for re-election, and was therefore unable to hand the gavel to Newt Gingrich). On Thursday, however, it was the outgoing majority leader, John Boehner, who did the honors.

Apparently, Denny Hastert could not bring himself to participate in the changing-of-the-guard ceremony. According to this account, he chose to watch the proceedings from a distance.

As Pelosi entered the chamber before her formal, party-line election, the House erupted in bipartisan applause. Only Rep. Joe L. Barton (R-Tex.), the outgoing chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, remained seated in stony silence. Pelosi's predecessor as speaker, Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), sat quietly and unobtrusively in the rear of the chamber, except for one brief moment of recognition.
Gosh, Denny! You don't need to be upset with Speaker Pelosi. She didn't take anything away from you. The voters took it away from you. Your party had unchallenged control of the government for the past six years, and chose to do absolutely nothing worthwhile. Now, we're going to try something new, that's all. Don't go away mad. Just go away.

The Post notes that Boehner was "magnanimous" in acknowledging the significance of the day, and "the roots of Republican defeat last November." I would say he was mostly magnanimous. In an otherwise gracious and good-natured speech, he did feel the apparent need to slip in a reference to the "Democrat Party," which never fails to make my teeth clench. But, he's a Republican. Fish gotta swim.

And how about that Joe Barton, huh? He must have been thinking about all those "incentives" he won't be able to shove into Exxon-Mobil's pockets now that he's in the minority. Damn those American people! How dare they exercise their right to choose their own government?