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Everyone's a (congressional) critic

September 27, 2005|Michael Newman

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, an editorial writer can always condemn Congress as a bunch of hypocritical cowards. That's the route taken this morning in the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post and USA Today. All three are outraged, to varying degrees, by congressional behavior in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

The Journal, characteristically, packs the most wallop, picking on members of the Republican leadership for refusing to give up "their slabs of highway pork." For the Post, the prize for most irresponsible goes to the entire Louisiana delegation, which has asked for $250 billion in federal reconstruction aid -- "more federal cash than they could possibly spend usefully." And USA Today refuses to name names, criticizing all lawmakers "who participated in the spending, borrowing and tax-cutting binge that put the nation in hock" but "are now clamoring for spending cuts to offset storm costs." That would be just about everybody.

Yet criticizing Congress, as every editorial writer knows, is the easy part. It's harder to be constructive, and here the editorials sadly part company.

The Journal wants President Bush to exercise his power to rescind money authorized by Congress. Whether Congress would accept his cuts "is anyone's guess," its editorial notes, winning points for candor even as it loses them for practicality. (Note to the Journal: It's not really that tough a guess.) And at least the Journal has an idea. The Post courageously recommends that Congress ignore Louisiana's request and "force itself to think seriously about the sort of reconstruction that makes sense" -- good luck with that -- while USA Today is left with the forlorn hope that Congress will "get serious" about spending.

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Michael Newman

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