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Commentary: Congress is just a profile in cowardice

If you didn't know it, you'd never guess that 95 percent of all House members get re-elected every two years without breaking a sweat. You'd never think that the hardest thing about the House of Representatives is getting in. You probably wouldn't believe that while 90 percent of the American public disapproves of the Congress as a whole, almost as many think that their own representative is the exception, the one good egg in a rotten dozen. Maybe after this week they'll realize that if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, guess what?

The vote on the bailout bill was nothing less than a colossal sham. It might almost be funny, were it not for the crazy contractions it is causing in the economy, not to mention the brazen efforts of both sides to use the crisis for political advantage.

This is one of those bills that is supposed to pass by one vote, one of those occasions where neither side wants to take the blame for what has to be done, so both position to try to get as many of "theirs" and as few of "ours" voting yes as possible. Someone wasn't counting right this week. Back to the abacus. Maybe they should just do it by acclamation, on an unrecorded voice vote. Everyone knows how this movie has to end. But no one wants their name in the credits.

To state the obvious, bailing out the bozos for whom 20 or 30 million a year just wasn't enough is not going to "test" well in public opinion polls. Maybe the representatives from the Upper East Side of Manhattan or greater Greenwich, Conn., can claim that in voting yes, they were truly serving their home constituencies, but for virtually everyone else, this looks like Robin Hood gone wrong -- stealing from the poor to help the rich, not the other way around.

Most of us would love to see the Wall Street billionaires and multimillionaires drown in their own debt, if they were the only ones who would. Let them taste what the rest of us deal with every day. Do I care that the boys in the banks are facing disaster? Not even a little.

In my day, which is the same day as most of the senior executives responsible for this mess, the smart people went to law school and medical school. We wanted to save the world, or at least the psyche next door. The joke was that only the dumb preppies went to business school. (Did someone say George W. Bush?) Plenty of room in the middle.

So should we be surprised that they messed up, these so-called titans of finance with hearts full of greed and feet of clay? No.

And is it our job to dig them out of the mess they created?

The easy answer, if you're not responsible for the even bigger mess that looms, is no. The numbers that matter to talk radio hosts are the ratings. No one elected them to put country first. The numbers that matter to politicians in tight races are the ones in the polls, particularly the one taken on Election Day. There's no second chance if you're back selling used cars.

The kicker to the spectacle this week on the floor of the House is how few of the guys and gals who voted "no" are in tight races, how few have actually turned down contributions from the clowns they were denouncing, how many of them were playing for the stands in the hopes that someone else would do the dirty work of saving the economy.

By the time the Democrats finished denouncing the Republicans for deregulating Wall Street and the Republicans finished denouncing the Democrats for giving Fannie and Freddie blank checks, there weren't enough votes for the cod-liver oil. What a shock. Almost as big a shock as the chickens coming home to roost for greed gone wild.