Transparency and the Public Stomach

I'll let the policy wonks continue their year-long exegesis (help me, exegesis!) of the health-care bill's details.  But one thing seems clear after the most drawn-out rush in the history of human legislation: this transparency thing definitely needs a re-think.

Oh, sure, plenty of the action in the HCR saga happened behind closed doors: The Gang of Six, for example, could have been meeting at a CIA black prison in Lithuania for all we know about what really went on in those discussions.   But even what we do know--Mary Landrieu's deal, Ben Nelson's deal--is too much for the tender sensibilities of the body politic, or at least its stomach.  Republicans, acting as the temporary defender of the public stomach (although I don't remember delicacy and deal-aversiveness being their dominant characteristics when they ran Congress), have upped the dyspepsia level, but the fact remains: we don't like seeing how Congress works.   In America's long battle between myth and reality, we always prefer the civics-class myth to the gritty reality, just as supposed "military intellectuals" cling to the comic-book usage "the bad guys."

Baby-boomers insisted on a more transparent Presidential nominating process--no more decisions made by senior pols in smoke-filled rooms.  What we got was primaries dominated by polls and 30-second spots.  And, of course, incomparably superior candidates.

The cliche is that you never want to watch how laws and sausages are made.   A contrary cliche, dating from the Progressive era, is that sunlight is the best disinfectant.  Maybe they meant "emetic."
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Harry Shearer is an actor, writer, director, musician and radio host. He is best known for his role on The Simpsons and his work on Saturday Night Live. More

Harry Shearer is an actor, writer, director, musician and radio host. He is best known for his long-running roles on Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons (where he voices a stable of characters including Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders, Rev. Lovejoy, and Scratchy). He is also part of the comedy writing and acting ensemble responsible for the mockumentaries This Is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration. His most recent book is the novel Not Enough Indians. He also hosts Le Show on NPR's Santa Monica affiliate.

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