Friday, January 19, 2007

Nancy Pelosi, the new speaker of the House, has discovered what’s wrong with the rest of us. We don’t know how to tell time, and she does.

Mzz Pelosi and her “new Democrats” have just about completed their legislative agenda of “the first 100 hours.” By the arithmetic the rest of us learned in grade school, hundreds of hours have elapsed since the clock started ticking with the convening of the 110th Congress on Jan. 4, but Democrats new and old march to a distant drummer, a confusing cadence and a stopped clock.

“We’re just counting the legislative hours,” the speaker’s spokesman explains. (Only in Congress is someone employed to speak for a speaker.) By just counting actual working hours and minutes a clever Congress, excuse the oxymoron, might stretch out a hundred hours to cover an entire congressional session. Mzz Pelosi called another timeout late yesterday to say that House Democrats would endorse a Senate anti-war resolution telling President Bush to drop dead. Congress didn’t invent euphemy, the hiding of the evidence of a misdeed behind a perfumed word, but it has perfected the art. Euphemisms can camouflage manifold sins and disguise a mountain as a molehill.

The new speaker is eager to eliminate global warming within the next 100 hours, so she will create a “special committee” to assist in drafting legislation to cut so-called greenhouse gas emissions, which are the unfortunate byproduct of how everybody else makes a living. Unlike congressmen, most of us work at jobs making things. Congress only makes trouble for everybody else, and Mzz Pelosi, eager to get her way right away, wants her “special committee” to devise ways to get around regular committee chairmen who have ideas of their own.

Some of these old bulls, who have been in town long enough to know what time it really is, are not amused. The bulls she must neuter first are Rep. Henry Waxman of California, chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform; Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, chairman of Ways and Means. But neutering a bull, even an 80-year-old old bull like Mr. Dingell, is an all-day job.

The point man for her uber-committee will be Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts. Mr. Markey doesn’t like cars and trucks or the oil companies that refine the gasoline that makes cars and trucks go. Cars and oil, not the gassy emissions of congressmen, are the vilest villains of global warming. She must neuter John Dingell as quickly as possible because, representing Michigan, he likes cars and trucks. He understands that this is how a lot of people make their living. Since congressional bulls, like other bulls, rarely stand still for emasculation, Mzz Pelosi’s scheme to cut American industry down to the size of a San Francisco garden party could spill a lot of blood. Not all of it will be bull’s blood.

Global warming hysteria is a favorite flavor of the 110th Congress, only slightly less addictive than noisy opposition to finishing the war in Iraq. Like much hysteria, it’s a European import, where it’s only slightly less popular than paralysis. Our congressional hysterics could take a cue from Prince Charles, the heir to the throne of England, whose fave flavor of this season is also global warming. He’s coming to America to get an environmental award and just to show what an average Joe he is he will forgo his usual private jetliner to ride with commoners.

He has reserved the entire first and business class sections of a regularly scheduled British Airways Boeing 747 for himself and his entourage of 20. He’s determined to “reduce the carbon footprint” of all the equerries, footmen, lords, ladies and royal whatnot who soften the vicissitudes of royal travel. Ordinarily 62 persons would be seated in the two sections of the 747, but you can’t expect a lady, waiting or not, or even an equerry to squeeze into a middle seat, and besides, one of the polo ponies might need a canter to ease the boredom of the long flight across the Atlantic. The tab for the flight is a bargain at $550,000 because it includes the little bag of peanuts and the can of Pepsi everybody gets. Congress couldn’t resist a bargain like that.

Pruden on Politics runs Tuesday and Friday.

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