What, Only Ten?



Speaking of dumb senators, Radar has one of those lists that needed to be written, even though it 1) is a little short and 2) sometimes misses the mark. It's a top 10 compilation of the country's "Dumbest Congressmen." From the entry on Montana's Sen. Conrad Burns:

Casting his myopic gaze toward terrorism this summer, Burns offered a helpful clue to law enforcement officials: Be wary of "faceless" Arabs who "drive taxicabs by day and kill at night." But this minor bit of sociological skylarking actually represents progress, of sorts, considering his 1999 outburst blaming "ragheads" for rising gas prices and additional episodes in 1994 in which he delivered a casual joke from the podium about "niggers" and told another audience that living in Washington with so many blacks "is quite a challenge."

I suggest that the list misses the mark not because any of these people are smart, but because it rewards flamboyance and ideology more than actual dumbness. And the Hill is not wanting for dumbness. Thanks in part to gerrymandering, the political map is clogged with safe districts that get filled by the nitwits who breath fire the hottest and stamp their feed the loudest. Classic example: Georgia's Lynn Westmoreland. A developer from the northwest part of the state, he skated into office thanks to the GOP's light-speed ascension in Jimmy Carter's old stomping grounds. And he's an airhead. He hasn't introduced any legislation. He supports posting the Ten Commandments in the House and Senate, but can't name any of them.

And then there are the legacies—the kids who oozed into Congress on the strengths of their parents' political mojo. Patrick Kennedy, who made the Radar list, is justifiably the most famous of the next-gen lightweights. But I've never heard anyone argue for the brainpower of Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. or Sen. Lincoln Chafee. (Credit to Patrick Kennedy for one of the better jokes about political dynasties: "Now when I hear someone talking about a Rhode Island politician whose father was a senator and who got to Washington on his family name, used cocaine, and wasn't very smart, I know there is only a 50-50 chance it's me.")

Oh, and how many second-rate politicians will be joining the Congress on the strength of their family names after next month's elections? At least two.