Thursday, May 12, 2016

"The Confessions of 'Congressman X'"

 "The Confessions of 'Congressman X'"
by David Martosko

"A new book threatens to blow the lid off of Congress as a federal legislator's tell-all book lays out the worst parts of serving in the House of Representatives – saying that his main job is to raise money for re-election and that leaves little time for reading the bills he votes on. Mill City Press, a small Minnesota-based 'vanity press' publisher describes 'The Confessions of Congressman X' as 'a devastating inside look at the dark side of Congress as revealed by one of its own.' 'No wonder Congressman X wants to remain anonymous for fear of retribution. His admissions are deeply disturbing.' 

The 84-page exposé is due in bookstores in two weeks, and Washington is abuzz with speculation about who may be behind it. The book, a copy of which has seen, discloses that the congressman is a Democrat – but not much else. The anonymous spleen-venter has had a lot to say about his constituents, however. 

Robert Atkinson, a former chief of staff and press secretary for two congressional Democrats, took notes on a series of informal talks with him – whoever he is – and is now publishing them with his permission.

'Voters claim they want substance and detailed position papers, but what they really crave are cutesy cat videos, celebrity gossip, top 10 lists, reality TV shows, tabloid tripe, and the next f***ing Twitter message,' the congressman gripes in the book. 'I worry about our country's future when critical issues take a backseat to the inane utterings of illiterate athletes and celebrity twits.'

Much of what's in the book will come as little surprise to Americans who are cynical about the political process. 

'Fundraising is so time-consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on,' the anonymous legislator admits. 'I don't even know how they'll be implemented or what they'll cost. My staff gives me a last-minute briefing before I go to the floor and tells me whether to vote yea or nay. How bad is that?'

And on controversial bills, he says, 'I sometimes vote "yes" on a motion and "no" on an amendment so I can claim I'm on either side of an issue.'

'It's the old shell game: if you can't convince 'em, confuse 'em.'

The congressman laments that politics has become a matter of picking a team by the jerseys they wear rather than looking at the players underneath. 'Things are so partisan today most folks vote the straight party line, even though they don't know s*** about who they're voting for. They just don't want the other guys to win,' he explains. 

And he seemingly takes a shot at the Bill and Hillary Clinton Foundation, noting how family philanthropies can be the beneficiaries of what amounts to bribes in exchange for legislative favors. 'Some contributions are subtle,' he explains. 'Donations to a member's nonprofit foundation. Funding a member's charitable pet project. Offsetting the costs of a member's portrait to adorn the committee room he or she has so faithfully served. It's all a bunch of bulls*** to get around gift bans and limits on campaign contributions. Where there's a will, there's a way.'

The mystery man reserves special scorn for Sen. Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who serves as Senate Minority Leader. One chapter is titled 'Harry Reid's a Pompous A**' and says the senator is 'sometimes a bit too clever for his own good. The same goes for [Republican Sen. Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell and his pathetic lieutenants. Ditto for most of the House leadership bullies on both sides of the aisle. They wield too much dictatorial power, manipulating legislative procedures and denying members due process.'

The larger picture that emerges is one of disenchantment with the political process and the professional office-holders behind it. Especially those in the Democratic Party. 'Our party used to be a strong advocate for the working class,' he says. 'We still pretend to be, but we aren't. Large corporations and public unions grease the palms of those who have the power to determine legislative winners and losers.'

'Most of my colleagues want to help the poor and disadvantaged. To a point,' he adds. 'We certainly don't want to live among them. Or mingle with them, unless it's for a soup kitchen photo op. Poverty's a great concern as long as it's kept at a safe distance.'

Much of Washington's problems are created on the fringes of America's dominant political parties, he says. 'The GOP have their crazy wingnuts, and we have our loony leftists. Screw them both. What we need are more common-sense lawmakers. Folks who see both sides of an issue. Who are open to accommodating each other's priorities. Today, both sides assume their views are the only logical ones.'

'I'm concerned my party has an activist far-left wing intolerant of center-leftists. Like the Republican Tea Party, these ideologues are much too rigid and extreme in their beliefs. And they're equally unappealing to mainstream Americans.'

He cites education policy as an example: 'I'm a strong advocate of improving our public schools. I also see the near-term value of vouchers and charter schools committed to lending a helping hand to disadvantaged kids. Especially inner-city kids.' 'Hell, most of us send our children to private schools and wouldn't be caught dead sending them to public schools in places like DC. How hypocritical's that? It's time to set aside petty politics. Are both parties so f***ing stubborn they can't work out a reasonable compromise on this common-sense issue? Our educational system's in the toilet, and all we do is snipe at each other.'

The publisher released a few short samples to the public on Amazon: 

'Most of my colleagues are dishonest career politicians who revel in the power and special-interest money that's lavished upon them,' Atkinson recorded his mystery collaborator saying.

'My main job is to keep my job, to get reelected. It takes precedence over everything.'

'Fundraising is so time consuming I seldom read any bills I vote on. Like many of my colleagues, I don't know how the legislation will be implemented, or what it'll cost.'

The book also takes shots at voters as disconnected idiots who let Congress abuse its power through sheer incompetence. 'Voters are incredibly ignorant and know little about our form of government and how it works,' the anonymous writer claims.

'It's far easier than you think to manipulate a nation of naive, self-absorbed sheep who crave instant gratification.'

And the take-away message is one of resigned depression about how Congress sacrifices America's future on the altar of its collective ego. 'We spend money we don't have and blithely mortgage the future with a wink and a nod. Screw the next generation,' the author writes. 'Nobody here gives a rat's a** about the future and who's going to pay for all this stuff we vote for. That's the next generation's problem. It's all about immediate publicity, getting credit now, lookin' good for the upcoming election.'

'Congressman X' Spells It All Out In Tell-All Book:

On campaign promises: 'Like most of my colleagues, I promise my constituents a lot of stuff I can never deliver. But what the hell? If it makes them happy hearing it, and they're stupid enough to believe it, shame on them.'

On the myth of spending restraint: 'I contradict myself all the time, but few people notice. One minute I rail against excessive spending and ballooning debt. The next minute I'm demanding more spending on education, health care, unemployment benefits, conservation projects, yadda yadda yadda. I'm for having everything, just like my constituents.'

On Washington corruption: 'How ironic that most of us in Congress run against Congress and the culture of corruption we perpetuate. It's as if we've all lost our f***ing sanity and become Don Quixote setting our sights on righting all that's wrong in the political world we've created. Insincerity from the heart. It's just another component of politics as usual.'

On lobbying Congress: 'Business organizations and unions fork over more than $3 billion a year to those who lobby the federal government. Does that tell you something? We're operating a f***ing casino.' 

On the aging Congress: 'Seniority sucks. Most of the leaders in both parties – House and Senate – are living fossils who don't exactly convey an attractive and vigorous image of Congress. We need to weed our geriatric landscape. Replace longtime careerists with new blood. People who understand the power of collaboration.'

On media bias: 'Political columnists, TV commentators, and talk show hosts are inherently biased and aspire to effect election outcomes. Pretending otherwise is a thing of the past. You're either red or blue, and there's no in-between. Little wonder voters flock to TV stations, newspapers, and websites offering them the partisan news slant they believe in. Journalists are a lot like the politicians they interview. The more elite ones are puffed up with self-importance and entitlement.' 

On running for office: 'Election campaigns are a pain in the a**. Unless I win. In which case it's a nice ego boost. Then it's back to shaking the money tree and selling access to me and my legislative staff. I've also learned it's important to cultivate a concocted image of myself. To make sure the public sees me as I want them to see me. Brand management 101. S***, I'm marketed no differently than a fancy car or athletic shoes.'

'The Confessions of Congressman X' is published on May 24 and is available for pre-order on Amazon." 

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