Tom Maguire vivisects Congressman Paul Ryan's Texas sidestep on the AIG bonuses today:
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, the top Republican on the budget committee, said Thursday he would have voted against the 90 percent tax increase if he had known that legal scholars would deem it unconstitutional.
"Now, that I know - which I didn't at the time - that this is unconstitutional, I wouldn't have voted the same way," Ryan said during a taping of C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" on Thursday - the show is set to air on Sunday. POLITICO was one of the participants in the Ryan interview.[snip]
"You rush this thing to the floor. Nobody had time to review it," Ryan said on the C-SPAN program, adding that lawmakers "got conflicting advice on it" before the vote.
"Vote now, study later. But this takes the cake pie-in-face:
Ryan argued that Democrats tried to pull a fast one on the GOP by ramming the legislation through the House under expedited procedures that required a two-thirds majority for passage, setting up the potential for Republicans to bring down the punitive measure. ‘This is no way to run Congress,' he said."
Some fast one the Democrats pulled -- making Ryan's vote count for something
But Congressman Ryan is typical of our political leaders. Unfortunately.
Something has bothered me for quite some time. The founding fathers had few books to read; no TV or radio or internet and few pamphlets. Even by Lincoln's time, educated people had access to very little written material compared to what we all are bombarded with. And yet apparently what they read was so much better to nourish the brain than what we do. Read the debates surrounding the drafting of the constitution or Lincoln's speeches and you can see an ability to comprehend and reason that few of our own age despite far more years of formal education can match. Consider this:
Lincoln had a few books. It has been said that only three books are necessary to make a library-the Bible, Shakespeare, and Black- stone's Commentaries. All these books Lincoln had. But Lincoln had other books as well. He had, to begin with, that great literature in sixty- six volumes, with which many of us are now so unfamiliar, that we call the Bible: a library which includes almost every literary form, which touches the loftiest heights of human aspiration, and sounds the depths of human experience, and conveys truth to us in the noblest eloquence both of prose and verse. This library was sufficient in itself for a man who could read it as Lincoln could, without the aid of commentaries, and with the flash of the imagination, the power of going to the place where a book lives, which is worth all other kinds of power in dealing with a book. Such a man could be lifted out of provincialism, not only into the great movement of the world, but into the companionship of some of the loftiest souls that have ever lived, by this single book. And then he had that mine of knowledge and life and of character, ^Esop's Fables, at his fingers' ends, so that in all his talk, and in later life, these fables served the happiest uses of illustration; and he had that masterpiece of clear presentation, Robinson Crusoe. He was intimately familiar with that well of English un- defiled, which I think more than any other influence colored and shaped his style, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.
"He borrowed that old-fashioned book which is responsible for a great deal of misinformation -Weems's Life of Washington-and when in 1861 he spoke in the Senate at Trenton he said that so thoroughly had he absorbed that book that he could see Washington crossing the Delaware, and he could recall all the details of the brilliant march on Trenton and the brilliant march on Princeton. Later he came upon Shakespeare and Burns, whom he learned afterward to love, and whom he knew so intimately that he became an acute critic of both writers. Now, the man who knows his Shakespeare knows pretty much all that is to be known of life; and if he can put the Bible back of it he has a complete education.
"Years afterward, when he was making those marvelous speeches which began in Cooper Union, a professor of English in one of our universities who went to hear him, attracted by his attitude on public questions, was astonished at his command of English, the purity, lucidity, and persuasiveness of his style. He heard him three times in succession, and then called at his hotel and sent up his card, and when Mr. Lincoln came into the room he said to him, 'Mr. Lincoln, I have come here to ask you a single question: where did you get your style?' Mr. Lincoln was astonished to know he had such a thing as style, but the question being pressed home to him, he thought a minute and said: 'When I was a boy I began, and kept up for many years afterward, the practice of taking note of every word spoken during the clay or read during the day which I did not understand, and after I went to bed at night I thought of it in connection with the other words until I saw its meaning, and then I translated it into some simpler word which I knew.'
Is it that we are so devoid of introspection and our educations so lacking in analytical consideration of what we read that makes the difference? Is the medium really the message and have we become so conditioned to receiving information in fast sound bites wrapped around trivial ephemera Dos Passos' USA style that few if any of us take the time to think through what we are reading? Or is it all too much? Has the craft of publication become so easy and inexpensive that we are flooded with nonsense and pay insufficient attention to any of it, even those specks of gold in the dross?