Seven Silly Quotes About the Washington of Yore

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CAMELOT OCTOBER 3, 2013

Seven Silly Quotes About the Washington of Yore

Among its many unhappy effects, the shutdown has sparked an overwhelming number of rhapsodies for Washington's halcyon, bipartisan past. Throughout Barack Obama's presidency, the dysfunction has bred nostalgia for an era "when politics worked" (the tagline of news anchor Chris Matthews' new book), and the events of this week have made those ruminations all the more effusive. We culled some examples of pundits recalling days gone by. Prepare to get lost in the rosy glow.

President Ronald Reagan and House Speaker Tip O’Neill "would fight like brothers, and then they would deal." —Chris Matthews at NPR

"Divided government used to work—it created the Marshall Plan, civil rights legislation, and all the accomplishments of the Reagan era." —John Avlon at The Daily Beast

"This impasse could be the breaking point for a political system that has gone from dysfunctional to nonfunctioning... This may be the beginning of the end of Washington as we know it. A rising generation of pragmatic, non-ideological voters is appalled by the dysfunctional leadership of their parents and grandparents. History may consider October 2013 their breaking point. There will come a time when Millennials aren't just mad as hell; they won't take it anymore." —Ron Fournier at National Journal

"No doubt, Democrats were not exactly warm and fuzzy toward George W. Bush during his presidency. But recall that they worked hand in glove with the Republican president on the No Child Left Behind Act, provided crucial votes in the Senate for his tax cuts, joined with Republicans for all the steps taken after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and supplied the key votes for the Bush administration’s financial bailout at the height of the economic crisis in 2008. The difference is striking." —Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein at The Washington Post

"The Congressional Record for Dec. 22, 1995, spells it out. Washington faced a partisan-driven shutdown back then much as the one this week. But it was also a time when Appropriations was still a haven where both parties talked… The debate was pointed but good-humored." —David Rogers at Politico

"The shutdowns of the nineteen-nineties seem half-hearted and tentative compared to this one. We haven’t heard shrieking like this since the nineteen-sixties, or possibly since the thirties, when the Republican Party waged a fierce, if futile, assault on the New Deal. Yet, in contrast to our current crop, that era’s conservatives—whose cries of 'socialism' have a modern ring—now look like rational actors, exemplars of sweet reasonableness." —Jeff Shesol at The New Yorker

"Washington used to be an adult place where you could slug it out during the day and have a few slugs at night, making deals in rooms that I personally filled with smoke. Now Congress is a crap sandwich. We used to pretend to hate each other. Now we really do." —John Boehner, as imagined by Maureen Dowd at The New York Times

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