A House Divided

american u.s. flag congress capitol building hill AP

A scene from the film "1776" shows John Adams -- so fed up with congress' bickering --he's about to blow his wig.

"I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace. That two are called a law firm and that three or more become a congress," Adams declared.

But long before Hollywood took its shot, Congress was the location of many a turbulent scene reports CBS News Correspondent Joie Chen.

Say, back in 1856: congressman Preston Brooks -- a slavery advocate -- beat abolitionist senator Charles Sumner senseless -- right on the Senate floor.

It was Mark Twain who once declared: "there is no distinctly American criminal class ... except Congress."

Years later, Will Rogers took up where Twain left off, joking that when one senator called another "a jackass" the animal had the right to sue for slander.

"It is almost built into our political DNA to hate Congress. it goes back to the beginning of the republic and it's continued," says Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar with the American Enterprise Institute.

"It's built on the distrust of government: the sense that people in power have to be held in check and can't be entirely trusted," Ornstein says.

And today, Ornstein says many Americans are increasingly turned off by members of Congress acting like kids in a sandbox.

Here's Indiana Republican John Hostetler recently -- carping about the other side:

"But like a moth to a flame, Democrats can't help themselves when it comes to denigrating and demonizing Christians," Hostetler declared.

Democrat David Obey took exception. "Mr. Speaker, the words I object to are that Democrats are making war on Christians," Obey responded.

Of course, neither party is immune to taking potshots. Not long ago, Democratic senator Richard Durbin of Illinois had to apologize after comparing the Guantanamo prison camp with Nazi death camps and communist gulags.

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