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It sounds familiar: 'Mired in governmental deadlock'

January 06. 2013 1:08AM

Doubting Thomases that we are, recent predictions of attempts to ransack the U.S. Constitution in light of supposed governmental paralysis had left us bemused. No responsible party would ever really suggest such a thing, would they?

Then we picked up the op-ed. page of the New York Times of New Year's Eve and saw the headline "Let's give up on the Constitution.''

Wonderful. The author was described as a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University. Louis Seidman by name is also the author of the forthcoming book "On Constitutional Disobedience.''

Bemoaning such things as a U.S. Senate that protects small states like New Hampshire, and a U.S. Supreme Court that FDR was unable to "pack''to his liking during the Depression, Prof. Seidman ticked off the many areas where he believes the Constitution hamstrings "democracy.''

Oh, he would keep a few knicknacks, he writes, like freedom of speech and religion, and a limit on presidential terms. How nice.

This kind of argument, which we now think will be heard more and more from leftists unhappy with any checks on their kind of governance, is all about the "fiscal cliff.'' Story after story out of the Big Media has decried the terrible failure of Congress to "get along.''

Getting along, of course, means having the conservatives give in so the liberals can "get along'' with the business of turning us into socialist Europe II.

Just how bad is our dysfunction, really?

"The inefficiency of Congress was nothing new, of course ... but now, in both houses of Congress, it was escalating to a new level, a level at which some analysts were questioning the efficiency of the governmental framework of which Congress was so pivotal a part.''

"We are at the critical stage of a somber and inexorable cycle that seems to have gripped the public affairs of the nation, ... mired in governmental deadlock, as Congress blocks or kills not only'' (the President's) programs but Republican programs as well.

"We underestimate the extent to which our system was designed for deadlock and inaction,'' and "perhaps the system would have to be changed.''

These are quotes, not from today's Huffington Post, but from Robert Caro's "The Passage of Power,'' his masterful study of Lyndon Baines Johnson.

The first quote is Caro summing up where government stood in the fall of 1963. The others are his book quoting, from 1963, historian and "unabashed Kennedy admirer'' James MacGregor Burns writing in "The Deadlock of Democracy.''

That deadlock ended with JFK's assassination and LBJ working his will and a supposed popular mandate with a cowed Congress. And how did that work out for the nation? It gave us the "Great Society'' for which the big bills are now long overdue. And it gave us the Vietnam quagmire and riots in our streets.

Yes, indeed, beware governmental paralysis. Beware a "do-nothing Congress.'' But also beware some of the supposed remedies.

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