WASHINGTON, DC—Across the nation, Americans are heartened to see that after nearly five months of unity and cooperation, petty, partisan bickering is slowly returning to the halls of Congress.
"With [House Majority Leader] Dick Armey attacking [Senate Majority Leader] Tom Daschle for bottlenecking the Senate, [House Democratic leader] Dick Gephardt roundly blasting Republican efforts to amend a Democratic-sponsored energy bill, and lawmakers on each side blaming the other for the return of the deficit, this terrible period of bipartisan amity seems to be ending," House Speaker Dennis Hastert told reporters Monday. "All I can say is, thank God."
Weary from months of Sept. 11-induced goodwill on Capitol Hill, Americans across the country have longed for a return to good old-fashioned sniping, name-calling, and finger-pointing.
"Thank heaven those boys in Washington are starting to waste time again, denouncing each other with shrill, self-righteous indignation like in the good old days," said Hanover, NH, locksmith Herman Bochy. "It makes a man want to stand up and say, 'Dammit, we're going to make it.'" And then it's only a matter of time before communication breaks down altogether."
For the first time since Sept. 11, federal legislators are returning to politics as usual.
"When I saw all those Senate members locking arms to sing 'God Bless America' right after Sept. 11, I cried," said Jane Svoboda, 37, an Ashland, OR, homemaker. "It was almost as if the words 'Democrat' and 'Republican' didn't mean anything anymore. I said to my husband, 'Has it really come to this?' Now, as the corrupt fat cats start pursuing their own greedy, self-interest-driven agendas while hypocritically accusing their counterparts of pork-barrel politics, it's like seeing America return to greatness."
But experts warn that hard times, and the patriotic unity that comes with them, are not over.
"As long as the war on terror continues, the national nightmare of bipartisan cooperation will not completely disappear," said Joseph Nye, professor and dean of Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. "Osama bin Laden is still at large. U.S. servicemen are still overseas. And many victims still need our help. But slowly, our leaders are getting back to the business of firing accusations at one another while serving the narrow interests of the powerful, monied few who got them elected."
Added Nye: "You know, watching those congressmen rip into each other over this whole Enron thing on C-SPAN, you can almost forget for a minute that Sept. 11 ever happened."
With House Republicans and Democrats spending much of Monday's session trading blame for the recession-damaged economy, congressional acrimony is back—and the nation appears to be welcoming its return with open arms.
"American politics are just as ineffectual, small-minded, and short-sighted as always," Robert Novak said Saturday on CNN's The Capital Gang. "If there's one thing the terrorists cannot take away, it is our capacity for infighting. If we just pull together to get through this crisis, I have every faith that we will come apart as we always do."