Editor’s note: John P. Avlon is a senior political columnist for The Daily Beast and author of the new book "Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe is Hijacking America." Previously, he served as chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/07/13/john.avlon.art.jpg caption="CNN independent analyst John Avlon says partisanship is trumping principle and eclipsing patriotism in government."]
By John Avlon, Special to CNN
This week, Washington combined high stakes poker and parliamentary procedures with health care reform in the balance. And despite more than a year of heated debate, the American people remain deeply divided on the issue – the only thing they seem to agree on is that D.C. is dysfunctional. A new poll shows Congress with a 17% approval rating.
Part of the reason is an epidemic of situational ethics: politicians reversing supposedly principled stands depending upon whether or not their party is in power.
The most egregious example is support for reconciliation – a measure to ensure an up-or-down vote, bypassing the threat of a filibuster. Republicans have lately been conflating reconciliation with the closely related, controversial (and conveniently scary-sounding) “nuclear option.”
When Larry King asked Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, “what’s wrong with majority rules?” on LKL earlier this week, she replied: “Because that's not how the Senate works. The Senate works with 60 votes. And now, what the president is promoting is a nuclear option, which is 50 votes.”
But the so called “nuclear option” was invoked 5 years ago by Republicans when they accused Democrats of blocking President Bush’s judicial nominations via filibuster.
As then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist explained, “Every judicial nominee brought to the floor should get a fair up or down vote...We were prepared to use this approach. The minority attempted to demean it by calling it the nuclear option surrounding it with the threats of the closure of government stopping this body from working…The proper term for our response is the constitutional option because we would rely on the constitution's power of self-governance to restore senate traditions barring judicial filibusters.”
In other words, Republicans were for forcing up-or-down votes before they were against it. As is so often the case in politics, where you stand is a matter of where you sit.
By Kathleen Toner, CNN
Iquitos, Peru (CNN) - Nearly 21 years ago, Patty Webster landed her dream job as an adventure tour guide in the Peruvian Amazon. But as she shared the area's beauty and culture with tourists, she realized there was a darker side to the rainforest paradise.
"I saw how poor they were and realized that people were dying because they didn't have medical care," Webster said.
She started sharing her supplies with the locals and soon began waking up to find people waiting outside her mosquito net to ask her for medicine. At one point, Webster - who had no medical training - gave someone stitches, following instructions from a book.
"It was kind of scary," she recalled. "If they're depending on me for their health care ... we're all going to die."
That's when she decided to stay and do something more.
Since 1993, Webster has been bringing medical relief to some of Peru's poorest and most remote areas through her nonprofit, now known as Amazon Promise.
Webster - described by a visiting doctor as "sort of a cross between Indiana Jones and Mother Teresa and Susan Sarandon" - and her volunteers have provided free health care and education to more than 55,000 people. FULL STORY