Magazine article The New Yorker

Mustache of Justice

Magazine article The New Yorker

Mustache of Justice

Article excerpt

Congress: It strains the patience of the sane. All those interminable sessions on the House floor, with all that grandstanding. The thousand-page bills. And now come the loony town-hall meetings. Henry Waxman, a thirty-five-year veteran, representing California's Thirtieth District, recalled half a lifetime's worth of congressional hearings recently, and said, "Oftentimes, it was not so interesting." He also said, "I used to think of my life in segments of five minutes until I could finally leave"--five minutes being the allotted time for each witness to testify and for each committee member to ask questions during certain hearings--and mentioned that he doesn't believe those who claim to have read a legislative bill from start to finish. This from a guy who just wrote a book called "The Waxman Report: How Congress Really Works," devoted to challenging the public's lack of enthusiasm for the daily practice of government.

Waxman, who keeps kosher, had stopped at the 2nd Ave Deli for lunch, near the start of the August break. "If you want something interesting, you could order this meal called Instant Heart Attack," he said, examining the menu. "It's a sandwich consisting of two large potato pancakes and your choice of meat." He opted instead for a pastrami omelette, without French fries. A few weeks before, Waxman had fainted, and was taken to the hospital. There, when asked why his knee was jerking, he tried his best congressional deadpan and joked, "I have restless-leg syndrome." Later, while reviewing his medical record, he discovered that he'd been taken as seriously as most congressmen wish to be taken ("He claims to have restless-leg syndrome"), and when he appeared on C-SPAN he recast the episode as a humorous health-care parable. (Waxman chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which narrowly approved the America's Affordable Health Choices Act on July 31st.) "I don't think there is such a thing as restless-leg syndrome," he explained. "I thought that restless-leg syndrome was a disease that was created by a drug company that wanted to sell a drug for a disease they had created." This prompted Scott, from Greenbackville, Virginia, to call in. …

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