Joel Stein

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    Joel Stein                                                                    ´,+++!"¨




                                                                                                     ´($;)!K¨




     Honk if You Love Congress                                                                        make even a jaded crowd that wasn’t shar-
                                                                                                      ing pastries realize that we are definitely
     I tracked down five people who approve of                                                         going to see Ferrer standing up and wav-
                                                                                                      ing during the State of the Union.
     Congress. It was the hardest job of my life                                                          Bilinsky said that though there were
                                                                                                      things in the health care act he disliked,
                                                                                                      “I think they made progress.” I added that,


     T
            hanks to remarkable reporting           who was happy when Newt Gingrich                  for the most part, they dress well.
            skills honed over my career as a col-   shut down the government.” I wondered
            umnist, I have hunted down the im-      whether liking Congress because it can’t          But more than specific accomplish-
     possible. I’ve found three of the 658 people   get anything done counts as approval, un-         ments, the people in my group all ap-
     who bought Heidi Montag’s album, a             til I realized I could not afford to be picky.    preciated how difficult Congress’s job
     woman who ate her placenta and—right                Worse yet, when I returned to our            is right now. The choices before us, they
     after the Anthony Weiner scandal—two           table after picking up beverages, all             agreed, are tough, especially since Ameri-
     women who wanted to see pictures of my         five were complaining about Congress.              cans disagree fundamentally on what’s
     penis. What more the Pulitzer committee        They talked about pork-barrel spending,           best for the nation. “It’s like a bad divorce
     expects, I do not know.                        lobbyists and how Representatives are             when you have to sort out terms,” Fuchs
         But I have never had so challenging an     constantly running for office instead of           said. “People just blame Congress because
     assignment as finding people who approve        governing. This was the kind of discus-           they’re out there talking about it and
     of Congress. A CBS News/New York Times                                                                 arguing with each other about it.” In
     poll claims 12% of Americans like the job                                                              general, the Congress approvers were
     Congress is doing. While that matches the                                                              a very pro-arguing group.
     lowest number ever recorded, it’s got to                                                                  These were also people, I was
     be way inflated. For two weeks I searched                                                               figuring out, who dislike other
     everywhere in L.A. for people who’d join                                                               Americans even more than Congress.
     me for a meal and say they don’t hate Con-                                                             “People like saying something sucks
     gress. The most common response I got to                                                               because it gives them an identity. I
     my plea of “I’m looking to gather a group                                                              know because I used to be like that,”
     of people who approve of Congress” was                                                                 said Bilinsky. Ferrer agreed, saying,
     “Are you going to meet in a phone booth?”                                                              “Anger makes you feel good. It pumps
     As a society, we really need to come up                                                                you up.” They thought anger was am-
     with a new reference for a one-person                                                                  plified by the media, even though the
     space now that phone booths don’t exist.                                                               media was buying them a pretty nice
                                                                                                            brunch. “Dylan Ratigan, be mad on
     I eventually found five people, two of                                                                  your own time. People are trying to
     whom wouldn’t let me print their names         sion I could have had simply by sitting at        solve problems,” Bilinsky said.
     because they didn’t want people to know        any other table in the restaurant.                    Since they all agreed that Congress
     they think Congress is O.K. I’ve printed           I asked them each to name something           is getting a lot of unearned animosity,
     the names of pornographers, music pirates      they thought the Senate and House did             I suggested we send a token of thanks.
     who were being hunted by the FBI, writers      well. Matthew Bilinsky, a lawyer, said,           “People like flowers,” Ferrer said. “Six
     for the Weekly World News, men who get         “Give me a second. I know it’s there. It’ll       dozen white roses. It makes a statement.”
     Botox and the woman who’s married to           come to me.” This was a guy who drove in          CongressLover and Bilinsky came up
     me. But these people I could not convince.     Los Angeles traffic to express why he likes        with a bumper sticker we could make
                                                                                                                                                      I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y T O M A S Z W A L E N TA F O R T I M E




         We met for brunch at the Alcove            the job Congress is doing. Heidi Ferrer,          for Senators and Representatives: if you
     Cafe. Three of the five were Tea Party          founder of the blog Girl to Mom and               think i can fit the right answer on
     enthusiasts. “A Congress that doesn’t          screenwriter of the Paris Hilton film The          this bumper sticker, please don’t
     get anything done delights me,” said           Hottie & the Nottie, liked that the Patient       vote. I had the bumper stickers made
     CongressLover , a doctor who was afraid        Protection and Affordable Care Act pre-           by CafePress.com, where any Congress
     his patients would leave him if they knew      vents insurance companies from rejecting          lover can buy them and mail them to
     he liked the work of the American gov-         kids with pre-existing conditions, since          the Capitol. I sent roses myself, but only
     ernment. Janet Fuchs, a housewife with         her son has progressive infantile scoliosis.      three dozen. We decided Congress didn’t
     a Ph.D., said, “I might be the only person     It’s the kind of statement that would             deserve the full 72-rose approval rating. I
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