Trophy Wife Politics

Kucinich's peace bill is all about looking good while doing nothing.

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Kucinich's Department of Peace covers everything but professional bass fishing.
Kucinich's Department of Peace covers everything but professional bass fishing.
Think of the U.S. House as a football team. There's a handful of stars. A handful of yeomen guards and fullbacks who get things done, but don't get the credit. There are even specialists -- those who play small but useful roles in key situations.

Yet this team has 435 members, which means the majority don't get anywhere near the field. They're consigned to holding press conferences on the Capitol steps, where they rail heroically about anything that will get them attention to an audience consisting of tourists stopping to see who the nut is. If you saw them outside a nice hotel, you might tip 'em a few bucks and ask 'em to fetch you a cab.

It's not a bad gig, really. You get all the perks of office with none of the responsibilities. No one's asking you to fix health care or cure the AIDS blight in Africa. In fact, they'd prefer that you just shut up. Your only job is to look important and try not to embarrass anyone.

It's the perfect gig for Dennis Kucinich. His is a record of moving speeches and brave calls to arms. But his congressional achievements can be listed on a matchbook cover. So it takes a man of equal parts delusion and ambition to believe that he can go from 56th-string punter to starting quarterback. Kucinich has so much of both, he must transport them in an ore boat.

Witness his Department of Peace bill. It's a beautiful scam. After all, bombing small, underdeveloped countries isn't nearly as much fun as advertised. So who could be against peace?

The problems don't arise until you actually read the bill. It envisions one giant department, presumably staffed by superheroes, that deals with everything from gang violence to elder abuse, labor law to education, technology to international finance -- not to mention arms enforcement and national security. And we're just getting started here. If you ask politely, it will also take out the garbage and feed your cat.

You will notice that the government already has approximately 17 gazillion programs dealing with these very issues. So the wise pol might say to himself, "Eureka! Maybe I'll just fix the existing programs!" Yet this would entail actual work. Kucinich adheres to the Trophy-Wife Theory of Politics -- the art of looking good while doing nothing. Far better to simply write a bill that lends the appearance of work. Are you seeing the craftsmanship here?

But, for the sake of argument, let's pretend that one department could solve every problem in the world. Let's also concede that the Super Friends will be otherwise engaged with meteors crashing into Earth and that we'll have to staff it with normal human beings -- or at least government workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor needs exactly 16,132 people to perform one simple task: ensuring the right of your employer to screw you. But the Department of Peace covers everything but professional bass fishing. That means hiring approximately 17,345,782,349 new federal employees.

Now you're probably asking yourself, "Jeepers, isn't the government broke? How are we going to pay for all these people? Wouldn't it actually be cheaper to invade the entire Arab world -- plus Asia, if we have enough coffee?"

Fine questions indeed. But you're missing the point here. What does a trophy wife do when confronted with a staggering bill? She puts it on plastic, of course!

Through the miracle of debt, the department could send emissaries across the globe to "proactively engage the critical thinking skills of grade school" students and monitor the ever-popular "causative principles of conflict." This might not subdue strife, but it would stop it long enough for the warring factions to shoot anyone using the phrase "causative principles of conflict."

There are, however, lingering problems. Just because you have a department doesn't mean that it will foster peace. Presidents tend to hijack departments they don't like. Who can forget Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, who had a deep appreciation of wildlife, as long as it was served with a nice béarnaise sauce? And let us not neglect the innumerable EPA chiefs who believed that coal-plant emissions are good for you, since you don't have to make car payments when you're dead. Under W., the department might well be staffed with indicted Enron execs and the night shift from Tex's Gun, Ammo & Liquor Depot.

Besides, like all bureaucracies, the Department of Peace would inevitably turn into one giant BMV, the world's largest producer of people who move really slow and hate their jobs. Even if it had the chance to, say, stop ethnic conflict in Somalia, it would refuse to get involved because no one would have the proper paperwork. You're in the wrong line, Mr. Warlord. I can't help you without title and registration.

Of course, Kucinich knows all this. He knows there is no money. He knows that, even if there were, his bill will never see the light of day. It's not meant to be a real plan; it's just a few pages of bullshit, designed to help him play a presidential contender on TV. It would actually be more effective to hire Oberlin stoners to traverse the globe with tanker-truck bongs. They could approach gang leaders and dog-beaters and Islamic fruitcakes alike. Dude, I've got some seriously kind bud. Wanna fire up the bong and watch "That '70s Show"? For those few hours, in that small corner of the world, peace would be had.

But trophy wives don't worry about effectiveness. They're only about dolling up the image staring back at them from the mirror.

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