One of James Fallows' readers points out that bashing Washington has become something akin to "God bless America" -- the thing a politician throws into his speech just because he's supposed to. "It's great to be here in Whereverville. So nice to be out of Washington," they say. The reader, a retired Air Force officer, says that when people do that, "we diminish the many very good things that many good people in Washington and in government generally are trying to accomplish." As someone who spends a fair amount of time on this blog pointing out good things the government is doing -- and someone who also bashes Washington with some regularity -- this hit home.
But you can bash Washington in a variety of ways. You can bash "Washington," a place where gridlock reigns, special interests screw the little guy, and nothing good ever gets done. This is what politicians do, usually when they're trying to convince voters to send them to Washington. Or you can complain about the actual city of Washington, which despite some good points has plenty of small problems, and one big one. I like to quote a piece of wisdom a friend imparted about law school, which applies perfectly to D.C.: There, you will find lots of incredibly smart, interesting, committed people who want to make the world a better place. And you'll also find some the biggest jerks you will ever meet in your life. Now that's worth complaining about. But the "It sure is great to be out of Washington" rhetoric we get from pretty much everyone on both sides of the aisle? That we could do without.
-- Paul Waldman
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