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Resolutions for an addicted Congress and the media

By Lisa Desjardins, CNN

Washington (CNN) -- Apologies to Deepak Chopra, but the wise concept of a "no resolutions" resolution should not apply to Washington. Few need resolutions (and resolution) more than the U.S. Capitol. Stepping just for a minute onto the soapbox, here are our resolutions for the powerful and the press in 2011:


1. Be Serious. This should not be difficult. But somehow you have turned the healthy wrestling match of politics into an addiction. You are addicted to demeaning one another. Your young staffers are addicted to finding the most cunning ways to undermine your opponents. And you all sound like addicts, quick to blame everyone else -- the other party, the leaders of the past, the media -- for problems which you, more than anyone, can address. Resolve to get serious, passionately debate the issues and end your addiction to the political food fight. (Unsure how? Need more specifics? Keep reading.)

2. Dial Down the Blame Game. Yes, pointing out your opponents' past mistakes and current wrongs is a legitimate and time-honored part of American politics. But the tactical blame game now has eclipsed the reason you are here: to debate ideas. Resolveto use your microphone time to give the voters your best and most passionate arguments and to stop using fingerpointing as a crutch.

3. Vote Against Your Party. According to Congressional Quarterly, in 2009 Democrats voted with their party 91% of the time in both the House and Senate, Republicans stuck with their party on 85% (Senate) and 87% (House) of votes. The 2010 numbers, being crunched now, seem likely to show even more party loyalty/rigidity. There is an important place for philosophical agreement within parties. But agreeing 90% of the time? C'mon, lawmakers. Instead, resolve to buck your party when you disagree. I know, some people (in Washington) will tell you it's political suicide. I say to them, where have you been? No label is more desired these days than "independent."


1. Cover the Substance, Not the Foodfight. Yes, this is our reason for being at American Sauce. The who-said-what-about-which-opponent sound bites are a trap that hooks the media like a fat worm to a fish. I'm talking to every network right now. We all can do better. Almost daily, we get sucked in by the political ping-pong match, something many lawmakers prefer that we cover rather than truly analyzing their proposals. Of course, the game in Congress is critical to understand and, at times, to cover, but it has become a pit of distraction. And it is turning Americans away from the news. Resolve to spend more time asking and reporting about debates and bills than about the daily political footrace.

2. Break from the Pack. Hundreds of reporters work in the U.S. Capitol complex every day. And often, it feels like we collectively cover five stories. Trade press excluded. I know it is hard to convince managers and even harder to get the time to truly dig, but resolve to file that FOIA, cover the bill being ignored (9/11 is on a list of dozens) and produce the stories no one else is doing.

3. Understand the American People are Informed and Want More. I know those of you who question the MSM, the mainstream media, are convinced it is full of liberals who believe themselves to be infinitely smarter than everyone else. Speaking from my experience, that's not the case with the Capitol press corps. This is a group that respects the public and is generally a blue-collar bunch themselves. But critics do have one point. I believe the media has no concept of how engaged and well-informed the American public is currently. This is way beyond saying, "They understand what a filibuster is." It's more that a growing amount of people are looking up CBO's cost estimates of bills. Or campaign donations to congressmen. Regular tourists I've walked up to have told me, to the year, when Social Security's trust fund will become exhausted (2037). So, friends in the media corps, resolve to report not for some imaginary, uninformed American but instead for engaged voters. It may sound simplistic but I'm convinced that's who is listening and craving for everyone in the Capitol to step up.