I really wish they'd have told me something I don't already know. That was my response this week to a new poll by the Wall Street Journal's Washington Wire. In it, Congress gets a lower approval rating than root canals, cockroaches, head lice and colonoscopies. It could hardly get much worse than that. Those results follow on the heels of a December Gallup poll that found members of Congress beat out just one profession - car salesmen - in popularity. And just before New Year's, Rasmussen Reports polled 1,000 likely voters and found 69 percent rank Congress' performance as "poor." But hey, there is some small comfort to be taken. Some 5 percent gave Congress a "good" or "excellent" rating.
These days, Congress is everybody's favorite punching bag, but they're not doing much to help themselves. Republicans in Congress are particular targets of the voters' disdain for Congressional gridlock and inability and unwillingness to tackle long-term issues.
Georgia Senators Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson were virtually of the same mind when I sought a response from their offices to the latest poll that has Americans loving cockroaches more than Congress. Through his press office, Chambliss said, "Anybody who has watched how this Congress has handled important issues of the day should be frustrated." Isakson's press officer Lauren Culbertson offered this statement from the senator: "Given the way that Congress has acted the last year, it's understandable."
It might help Congress' approval ratings if some members would just zip their lips and tend to business instead of jockeying for headlines that get national scrutiny and ridicule for the state. Hmmm. I guess I'm thinking about Georgia's 10th District Congressmen Paul C. Broun of Athens who represents a small bit of eastern Newton County.
Recently, Broun broke ranks with Georgia's eight other Congressional representatives to vote against the re-election of House Speaker John Boehner.
Instead, Broun cast his vote inexplicably for someone who is no longer a member of Congress: former Florida Republican Congressman Allen West who lost an expensive and high profile race to a Democratic challenger in November. The Washington Post said it was the "most expensive" Congressional race in the country.
West is known for fiery rhetoric. He's called supporters of President Obama "a threat to the gene pool" and described Obama himself as a "low-level socialist agitator." Congressional Democrats should "get the hell out of the United States of America." Some 80 of them are Communists, he maintains. He called Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz "vile, unprofessional and despicable." He's called for government censorship of the media and has likened the Tea Party to "Steve McQueen's movie The Blob."
Broun has a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Georgia and a medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia and practiced medicine in Athens. He sits on the House Science, Space and Technology, currently chairing the subcommittee on investigations and oversight. You'd think he'd be well-grounded in scientific facts, and principles, but he's chosen to ignore all that science teaches about the age and origins of the world, evolution and global warming. Evolution and the Big Bang Theory, he has said, are "lies from the pit of hell" ..."to keep...me and folks from understanding they need a savior."
Last year was the hottest year in the world's recorded history, yet Broun holds that global warming is a "man-made conspiracy" dreamed up by the scientific community. The Earth, Broun maintains, is but 9,000 years old and was created in six days "as we know them."
Broun's anti-science rants spurred a write-in campaign for Charles Darwin in Broun's otherwise unopposed campaign for reelection last November. The long-dead Darwin got 4,000 votes to Broun's 210,000 votes out of a district population of 691,000.
One would think a district boasting two of the state's premier research institutions - the University of Georgia and Georgia Health Sciences University, formerly the Medical College of Georgia - would have been able to put up a credible candidate against the anti-science Broun. Interestingly, the University of Georgia is planning "a series of public lectures focused on scientific findings that support the formation of everything from biomolecules to the universe itself." The lectures, "Origins of the Universe," start Jan. 23, and are free and open to the public, "designed as public discussions about science for nonscientists," according to a press release. Paul Broun should be issued a front row seat with an exam to follow.
Barbara Morgan is a Covington resident with a background in newspaper journalism, state government and politics.