• U.S. Senate Falls Off the Insult Cliff

    Strained negotiations over the fiscal cliff have to led to some heated remarks in the normally stodgy Senate. Harry Reid called House Speaker John Boehner a "dictator" for the latter's refusal to bring Senate bills to a vote in the House. Before that, Reid compared Republicans to the New York Jets.

    Which is to say: Senate insults have gotten lame lately and productivity seems to have suffered as a result. At least you could count on the Senate to authorize a war or two in the days when Dick Cheney stalked the chamber, telling Sen. Patrick Leahy to do a certain anatomically impossible thing to himself.

    Maybe if we get back to the days of hardcore incivility and let elected officials blow off some steam, they'll get more work done. Consider the greatest congressional insults in history:

    * Sen. Sam Houston said that a colleague, Thomas Jefferson Green "has all the characteristic of a dog — except loyalty."

    * Sen. Roscoe Conkling said, "No thank you. I don't engage in criminal practice," when he was asked to campaign for presidential candidate James Blaine.

    * Rep. John Randolph called Rep. Edward Livingston, "a man of splendid abilities, but utterly corrupt. He shines and stinks like rotten mackerel by moonlight."

    If we could return to this level of creativity in congressional invective, we could invent our way out of the dairy cliff, the fiscal cliff, the debt cliff and even the surely-coming metaphor cliff.

    Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

    Tags: Fiscal Cliff, Harry Reid, History, Senate


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