By Doug Patton
Washington, DC, January 20, 2004 – “This Congress will come to order and the members – especially the Democrats – will sit down and shut up!”
House Speaker Dennis Hastert seemed stunned at the sound of his own words, even as they came tumbling out of his mouth. But he knew there was no turning back now. He was about to introduce the President of the United States to a joint session of Congress to deliver this year’s State of the Union Address, and such language was the only recourse left to him.
“Mr. Speaker – you horse’s patoot! – I demand to be recognized,” screamed Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.
“Everybody recognizes you, Barney,” snickered a freshman Republican from Ohio.
“You shut your pie hole!” Frank snapped. “Now, as I was trying to say before I was so rudely interrupted by Mr. Doodyhead over here, those of us in the minority – who have never really accepted that concept, by the way – wish to place into the Congressional Record the following words: ‘Roses are red, Violets are blue, the president stinks, and you do, too!”
The left side of the aisle erupted with laughter and high-fives.
The Speaker pounded his gavel in anger and frustration. “The prattling gentleperson from Massachusetts will shut up and sit his swishy self down or the Chair will call the Capital Police and have him forcibly removed from this chamber!”
Gasps and sounds of clucking tongues came from the left side of the chamber, while great guffaws of laughter emanated from the right. Sitting next to the Speaker, Vice President Cheney looked as if he were about to experience his fifth heart attack.
Everyone knew what had led to this complete breakdown of decorum in the United States Congress, but no one seemed able to stop it.
It all began on Friday, July 18, 2003. On that day, after a particularly frustrating few hours of not getting their way, Democrats had retreated to a library to pout. When asked to vacate the room, they had sent their mouthiest member, U.S. Rep. Fortney “Pete” Stark, D-Cal., out into the hallway to repeatedly call a Republican colleague “a wimpy fruitcake.”
That verbal assault, which followed a squabble in the venerable House Ways and Means Committee hearing room, erupted into something more than normal partisan bickering and led to the committee chairman calling the Capitol Police to clear the room.
Ever since that fateful day, the Congress had not been the same.
“Mr. Speaker, you are a moron! How dare you speak to my colleague from the great State of Massachusetts in such a demeaning manner,” shrieked Sen. Ted Kennedy, veins popping out from beneath his collar. “You imbecile!”
The Speaker pounded his gavel again. “You, sir, are a weasel and a worm! Everyone knows that neither you nor Mr. Light-in-the-loafers here belongs in this great institution. Guards, take Mr. Frank out and place him in a corner of the rotunda for thirty minutes – facing a naked female statue! That oughta teach him!”
“You can’t do this,” Frank howled. “You…you…you homophobic bigot!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever,” Hastert said with a waive of his hand. “Take him away.”
“I rise in support of the Speaker’s actions,” said another freshman GOP member. “I think this is just swell!”
“Screw you, wimp boy,” sneered Stark.
“You just do whatever you think you have to do, tough guy,” snarled Sen. John McCain.
Just then, the Sergeant-at-Arms called out, “Ladies and gentlemen…the President of the United States.” The president strode into the chamber, a determined but pleasant expression on his face. It was then that the spit hit him right between the eyes.
Doug Patton is a freelance columnist who has served as a political speechwriter and public policy advisor at the federal, state and local levels. His weekly columns can be read in newspapers across the country, and on www.GOPUSA.com, where he serves as the Nebraska Editor.
Readers can e-mail him at email@example.com.