Believe it or not, things actually happened in the past few weeks other than the entirely self-inflicted debt ceiling crisis that appears to have been resolved on Capitol Hill. The question now is whether Congress will be able to turn its attention to matters that are causing discord and pain all on their own.
On the plus side, the announcement of the resignation of Rep. David Wu barely made a ripple in the national media. Wu–who had been behaving erratically for some time and who had already announced he was not running for reelection–had to cut his term short after charges of sexual misconduct involving a young woman in his home state. And while Wu's alleged transgressions should not be ignored, they are nowhere near as important as the question of whether the country will continue to pay its bills. Wu didn't even keep quiet during the debt debate (he said he would stay on until the debt legislation was done), issuing a statement that said:
It's ridiculous and sad that Democrats are in a position of defending such a draconian, anti-stimulus bill—but we lost the high ground when President Obama caved last December on extending tax cuts for the wealthy. I think we can do better than the plan that was presented.
Wu’s statement isn't going to change the Wikipedia summations of his career—he's still a guy who had to leave office because he was behaving badly, at the very least. But it’s healthier for the democracy to keep attention on the nation’s finances instead of the antics of one odd lawmaker. [See the month’s best political cartoons.]
The attacks in Norway received some attention, but got shunted to the inside pages during the height of the debt battles. That's understandable, given that the looming fiscal meltdown had a more immediate and direct impact on U.S. readers. But the tragedy should be studied and revisited many times as we figure out how we are going to deal with hate crimes, immigration and multiculturalism.
But lawmakers overwhelmingly say they are eager to get back to what the country really wants them focused on— jobs. As important as the debt and deficit are, voters are far more anxious about the employment situation, congressmen say. They are sure to hear that message loudly when they return to their districts for the bulk of the month. There are fewer political points to make when drafting a jobs package. Let's hope Congress is too exhausted from the political theater of the debt debate to care.