Lincoln, Sausage, Malice And The Farm Bill

Buckeye Farm Beat

After seeing Lincoln on the big screen, I doubt our current lawmakers have the same country-bred savvy.

Published on: January 10, 2013

Saw the movie Lincoln this week. I know it has been out for a while. It was high on my choice list, but family and friends seemed to prefer The Hobbit and les Miserables.  I was surprised Lincoln was still showing at the local Regal Cinema and thanks to a Christmas gift certificate from my son, Kathy and I went to see it.

It is a great performance by Daniel Day Lewis. The makeup artist makes him look just like Lincoln – even aging him from the stress of the job. But more it’s the way he portrayed the character with a blend of country-style story-telling- humor combined with the bird-eyed sharpness of a well-studied lawyer and the stooped figure bearing of a leader carrying the weight of the country and family.

It’s about law-making and passage of the 13th amendment to end slavery and the strategies and political battling and deal-making it all entails. It makes you appreciate what our Congressmen have been working through this year. They say law-making is like watching sausage grinding, but I think the intention of the sausage maker to create a delicious product is a far purer enterprise than what has Congressmen face. Certainly compared to what has been going on this year.

To that end, Rep. Collin Peterson, D- Minnesota and House Ag Committee ranking member, sent a biting letter to House Speaker John Boehner, R- Ohio, this week. In the letter Peterson said he saw no reason to go through the exercise of writing a 5-year farm bill again if the House leadership again refuses to consider a bill. He noted that the “backroom 9-month extension of the farm bill ignored the will of the agriculture committees of both sides of the legislature.”

Here’s the biting part of Peterson’s letter to Boehner:

“Given your long-standing opposition to farm programs and previous farm bills, it was no surprise that there were provisions in the bill that you could not support. But instead of allowing those objections to be aired in an open debate and letting the House “work its will,” the Republican Leadership bottled up the Committee’s farm bill and drafted alternatives in the Speaker’s and Majority Leader’s offices, bypassing both the Chairman and members of the Agriculture Committee and making a mockery of regular order. Having served together on the Agriculture Committee for many years, I could not believe that you and your Leadership team could treat the Committee with such disrespect.”

No doubt Peterson is grinding the political sausage here. And no doubt the Democratic leadership urged him to write. But the fact is that a lot of thought from all sides of the American agricultural community went into the writing of a new Farm Bill -- in both the House and Senate. It was one area the Congress seemed to be willing to work on and come to a consensus. Agriculture has been the shining star of our economic recovery -- carrying the export markets and bolstering input manufacturing from machinery and technology to on-sight drainage and conservation work, but it’s not immune to change.

I can only guess that Rep. Boehner is once again so focused on defeating the Democrats in the next election that he is willing to make all Washington leadership look ineffective during the interval. Now we hear that the Taxpayer Relief Law resolution of the fiscal cliff came with a full package of pork that will effective negate any kind of budget reduction initially expected from raising taxes on Americans again under the law.

May be one day somebody will make a movie of this one. The trouble is I’m not seeing a guy or gal with the country smarts to pull off the leading role. I am afraid I do not see anyone in our Congress capable of writing something as incredibly profound as the words Abraham Lincoln chose to end the short speech that was his second inaugural address two-months after the passage of the amendment:

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”