Is it worth analyzing this on the merits? Say what you will about Bachmann and Ron Paul, for instance, but they’re not the reason we’re $15 trillion in debt. Even Newt, who has pushed for bank-breaking government expansions, managed to produce a balanced budget or two as Speaker. Also, does anyone really think the trouble with Congress is that they spend too much time in session? I get the argument — shatter the “professional politician” mindset by making them part-timers and you’ll see less regulation and smarter policy — but I’m not sure how it would lead to better outcomes on truly momentous questions like entitlement reform. Part-timers might be less fearful of being turned out of office for casting bold votes on Medicare and Social Security, but my hunch is that they’d spend much of their new free time fundraising and forming PACs and preparing for the next election. Which is to say, while Beltway culture surely shapes congressional minds, it takes a certain kind of mind to seek out the Beltway in the first place. Forcing them to spend more time at home won’t stop most of them from thinking about how to spend more time in Washington.
But never mind all that. The point of the ad isn’t to push a serious reform plan, it’s simply to stain Perry’s rivals for the conservative vote with their membership in the most widely loathed institution in American political life. It’s not a gamechanger, but since the word “Congress” now seems to induce a Pavlovian spitting response in most Americans, it’s only logical that he’d want to ring the bell on Bachmann, Paul, Gingrich, and Santorum. Next stop: 20 percent in Iowa?