Once upon a time I thought of politics as a noble profession. I subscribed to the Robert F. Kennedy view that politics should be a force for positive change and reform of what we think is broken in our society.
I continue to believe politics has the potential for nobility.
Then we hear the carping that arose from the U.S. Labor Department’s jobs report for January.
Republicans were quick to pounce on the numbers, which weren’t as good as the White House had thought would come out. The nation added “only” 113,000 jobs in January, down from the expected 178,000. The jobless rate ticked down a bit, to 6.6 percent. It’s down from its high of 10 percent in 2009, but still too high to suit the loyal opposition.
“Today’s jobs report underscores that there remains a real crisis for the chronically unemployed in this country. It’s too hard for many to find good jobs, wages are stagnant, and it’s harder to get ahead,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
I guess the most annoying aspect of the reactions to these jobs numbers is that the “other side” is quiet when they’re good, as they were in November and December. The labor market added about 400,000 jobs at the end of 2013. Did we hear anything then from Cantor and his congressional Republican colleagues? Their silence was deafening.
Yes, I am acutely aware that Democrats do the same thing to Republican presidents. George W. Bush couldn’t buy a break from congressional Democrats whenever his administration welcomed good economic news.
The nobility of politics has been replaced by something far less high-minded. It’s become a game of who can get the better of the other guy. It goes on and on.
I’m going to talk today to U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Clarendon, who’s running for his 10th term in the House. I intend to ask him what he’s going to do to restore some sense of comity in Congress and repair its relations with the White House.
Let’s hope he can offer a noble answer.