Congress AWOL From Boston Bombing Case — Thankfully

Posted April 22, 2013 at 11:34am

The incredibly swift and effective handling of the Boston Marathon bombing case this week by federal, state and local officials should sustain (or restore) national confidence in those institutions — and embarrass Congress.

Congress, of course, had no role whatsoever to play in Boston, and the Senate’s failure to pass gun legislation favored by almost 90 percent of the population only justifies its low public esteem (maybe the right word is contempt).

The Pew Research Center last week published a poll showing that 62 percent of Americans have a favorable view of their local government and 52 percent of their state government.

In both cases, those numbers are down somewhat from a decade ago, when 67 percent were happy with local government, 62 percent with state government.

But the drop for “the federal government in Washington” was more precipitous — from 64 percent favorable in 2002 to 33 percent.

I doubt the reputation of the FBI, which performed so superbly last week, was ever that low, since the annual Gallup survey of confidence in various national institutions puts the police almost up with the military in national trust (58 percent for the police, 71 percent for the military).

The FBI’s Boston field office, at least, lived up to the national trust bestowed on police. If it develops that FBI headquarters in Washington botched warnings of Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s jihadist connections, it might only deserve the respect accorded the rest of the federal government.

Meantime, the Gallup poll showed that confidence in the presidency is down to 37 percent, but only 13 percent of Americans had “a great deal” (6 percent)  or “quite a lot” (7 percent) of confidence in Congress. Fifty-two percent had “very little” confidence in Congress, or “none.”

The Senate’s failure to pass any gun bill last week — even one of the weaker background check amendments offered — fully justifies that opinion. On top, of course, of its persistent failure to deal with the national debt, pass a budget or improve the jobs picture.

I think Congress has one last chance to redeem itself. There are bipartisan proposals at hand on immigration reform. Sensible Republicans know they are dead demographically if they don’t get good with Latinos. If, under those circumstances, Congress can’t solve this national problem, the “no confidence” index should approach 100.

Could the stunning performances in Boston of local and state governments, and federal law enforcement officials maybe inspire (or embarrass) Congress into doing something right? Alas, probably not.