Kevin Frisch: Bringing reality back to politics

Kevin Frisch

Injecting a little populism into what is an often insulated sector of politics — proposing and passing legislation — Rep. Randy Kuhl is taking a page from “American Idol.” He’s letting the masses decide.

The western New York representative announced his “Fix Washington” initiative in May with a challenge to his constituents: “If in fact people are saying ‘Washington is broken’ and ‘Let’s fix Washington,’” he said, “I’m looking for ideas on how to do it.”

He has culled a top-five list from the hundreds of suggestions he received and promises to include the one that garners the most constituent votes into a future bill.

I’m sorry to say my suggestion — “Trade Vice President Cheney to Venezuela for Milka Duno and a grumpy oil executive to be named later” — did not make the cut. But the political wonks (and wonkettes) of the 29th Congressional District distinguished themselves with some creative proposals, including outlawing Stop-Loss (the involuntary extension of military service) and imposing 12-year term limits on all congressmen and senators.

The idea of 12-year congressional term limits has evidently come full circle. Back in 1994, such a provision was part of the Contract With America that Republicans ran on to take control of Congress. It was given the rather innocuous name of the Citizen Legislature Act, but didn’t garner enough votes to be enacted by the citizen legislators (some of whom are still in Congress 14 years later).

But if we can’t have citizen legislators, citizens offering legislation might be the next best thing. And while Kuhl’s effort to gather ideas is solid first step, I say we go whole-hog with a concept he only hints at: Reality Legislating.

HOWIE MANDEL: “Good evening, America, I’m Howie Mandell and welcome to ‘Law or No Law?’ Each week, three contestants offer their proposed pieces of legislation and our celebrity panel offers its picks and pans. Then you, the home viewer, weigh in with your vote — Law or No Law? And here’s our first contestant, Molly Ringworm of Pencil Point, Neb.”

MOLLY: “I think it’s just unmerciful the way today’s youngsters speed along. They drive right up on your bumper and blare their horns! Highways have passing lanes. I’d like to see a no-passing lane on the right for us safer drivers.”

MANDEL: “A no-passing lane. Let’s go to our judges.”

RANDY JACKSON: “I’m down with you, dawg. ‘Cause I like to chill behind the wheel, too, and ain’t nothing worse than bein’ tailed.”

PAULA ABDUL: “Oh! That would be wonderful. There are so many disenfranchised drivers in the world who, just, when they drive ... they’re just ... even if they don’t have their cars ... need help. Like this very wonderful law.”

SIMON COWELL: “That is, without a doubt, the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. It’s like a stupid soufflé. Like someone took all the stupid they could find, put it in a big pot and cooked it at the temperature of stupid.”

MANDEL: “Next contestant: Chester Drawers from Dry Heaves, Fla.”

CHESTER: “Let’s outlaw taxes!”

JACKSON: “Dawg! You’re crazy! You’ve heard the phrase ‘death and taxes.’ You wanna live in a world where it’s just ‘death’?”

ABDUL: “Outlaw taxes? Wouldn’t that be, like, against the law?”

COWELL: “Did I say the last idea was stupid? It’s as if you ate that whole pot of cooked stupid and then washed it down with a pitcher of stupid.”

MANDEL: “Last up: George W. Bush.”

BUSH: “I can’t run for a third term ‘cause it’s against the law. An’ I’d win, too. All my advisers tell me I would. We should change that law.”

JACKSON: “Uh, actually, it’s not the law; it’s the Constitution, dawg.”

ABDUL: “Isn’t the Constitution a law? It is! It’s a law! It’s, like, the biggest, most important law. And Americans should be able to change the big laws, just like they change the little ones.”

COWELL: “You didn’t just have a pot of stupid, did you? You went to the stupid banquet. It’s as if you ordered the stupid-battered stupid for an appetizer, the stupid salad with thousand-stupid dressing, roast stupid stuffed with stupid, a side order of stupid and chocolate-covered stupid for dessert. I hope you took a bicarbonate of stupid because if you get sick, you know what will come out when you open your mouth? Stupid!”

MANDEL: “Stupid? Out of the president’s mouth? That’s hard to imagine. But you decide, America. Call our toll-free number: Law or No Law?”

Contact Messenger managing editor Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770/Ext. 257 or by e-mail at