With Congress Gone, D.C. Takes On Effortless Beauty

Washington, D.C., clears out in the last weeks of December, as members of Congress and their staffs head back to their home districts for the holidays. NPR's Linda Wertheimer enjoys walking the quiet streets, and uses that time to reflect on the past year in politics.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

'Twas the week after Christmas and I in my cap and heavy sweater and down vest ventured out to find our beautiful capital city glittering in the winter sunshine, the cold air so clear that the crescent moon looks like a chalk drawing on the deep blue sky. The Capitol Dome and the spike of the Washington Monument all shine, showing their best postcard poses.

And it's easy to go touring around and look at them. There's very little traffic. Cars proceed in a stately fashion down the avenues and around the circles, enjoying effortless trips across the city. This is a very good time to live in Washington. The thing is, the Congress is gone and that empties out the town and cuts down on the fussing. Not many people were sorry to see them go and judging from polls, not so many people will be glad to see them come home to their districts and states.

A CNN poll out this week tells us this group of 535 men and women constitute the worst Congress ever. Worst in my lifetime, say two-thirds of the people polled, and nearly three-quarters of the folks polled call the current crop of senators and representatives a do-nothing Congress. Obviously, with numbers that big, rich and poor, old and young, men and women, black and white all agree, bad Congress, bad Congress, historically bad Congress.

And according to CNN, the Congress is on track to do less legislating than any Congress in 40 years. That ought to be good news for the people who want less government, but it's not making them happy, at least that's not what they tell people taking polls. The president is also out of town and while he is doing much better than the Congress in terms of voter approval, he also has the worst numbers of his presidency.

For several very good reasons, we've fallen out of love with our leader. We especially don't love our legislature, but this has all happened before. We've had do-nothing Congresses. We've had feuding, fighting and fussing before, and we've made it through. And we will again. After all, we have an election coming up and that is always a good time to go out to polling places and let our leaders know what we really think.

But right now, I wish you could go for a walk with me past all the beautiful empty buildings and the grand monuments and be inspired to think we can do better and we will.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

WERTHEIMER: That was "The Postal Service" and you're listening to NPR News.

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