I love a good legislative fight. Not the kind where they debate stuff — the kind where everybody ends up involved in an actual bench-clearing brawl.
Unfortunately for C-SPAN's ratings, these things only seem to happen overseas. Last May, I reported on a dramatic but also typical battle in the Taiwanese legislature, in which people punched each other, climbed onto the speaker's podium, and threw things around the room. That one was distinguished by the desperate tactics of one legislator, who, rather than allow a bill to be introduced, grabbed the paper copy and actually started eating it. I got called out for making fun of that by a professor from Taiwan who told me this: "By eating the bill, which there was no way to stop legislatively, that woman put a stop to a major effort to undermine governance on the island. Simple, effective, and brilliant." Simple, yes. Effective and brilliant? If nobody had another copy. "Nobody made a copy? Are you kidding me?! Curses!! Until next year, then!"
Anyway, this week's brawl took place in Seoul, South Korea, as that party's National Assembly "descended into chaos" over a free-trade agreement. You wouldn't think that a trade dispute would lead to violence (I guess it did in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, but then that was stupid, too), but this one did.
Apparently, the chaos was triggered by the ruling party's move to send the controversial agreement to committee, the next step in getting it passed. According to the report, the committee's meeting chamber was the only place where the bill could be officially introduced — and so that would be the place to disrupt it (or, possibly, eat it). But when it looked like there might be trouble, the committee chair invoked a provision allegedly allowing him to "use force to 'keep order' in parliamentary proceedings," and had the door sealed.
Fights immediately broke out as members of the opposing parties tried to break in. According to the report, "TV footage showed people from both sides shoving, pushing and shouting in a crowded hall . . . amid a barrage of flashing cameras." Blood trickled down one man's face. It did not take long before punching escalated to power tools, as the legislators took a sledgehammer and even an electric saw to the door, eventually forcing it open only to have security guards spray fire extinguishers in their faces (left). Suddenly, the stained-glass window overhead shattered as dozens of heavily armed ninja commandoes rappelled in from helicopters, circling dragons swooped in to eat several legislative aides, and a vast pit filled with blazing sulfur opened up to swallow half the building.
And if you think that sounds bad, just wait until the actual floor vote.