This week's bitter and damaging battle in the US Congress over the United States debt ceiling was a very disappointing advertisement for the American political system.
In the past, US politicians have shown a high degree of willingness to work together to solve issues of the national interest and, in this case, international interest.
The debt ceiling for example has been raised dozens of times since the Second World War without fuss.
So it was pretty surprising and alarming to see how close things came to the brink in the US this week.
Now while I'm not close enough to US politics to apportion blame with much accuracy, it does appear from a distance at least that the presence of the new right wing anti-government Tea Party movement had a major impact on the debt negotiations and the tone of the debate.
The Tea Party politicians, whilst only a wing of the Republican party at the moment, showed little if any willingness to compromise over the debt ceiling, and actually remain unhappy about the deal that was finally cut. Not enough spending cuts as far as they are concerned.
This last point is telling, because the consensus amongst many Washington observers is that the Republican side in general, not the Democrats, were the victors in this debt stand off.
But the Tea Party, unofficially led by the likes of Michele Bachmann and Sarah Palin, are a new breed of libertarian small government politicians who are absolutely determined to shake things up and change the way things are run in Washington DC.
Now the conventional wisdom is that the established and more centrist elements of the Republican Party will eventually consume and moderate the Tea Party's extremism.
After all it is not the first time we've heard new politicians arrive on the scene and say they are going to quote "change Washington".
However from what we saw this week the so called moderation on the Tea Party has not happened yet and it's the old guard in the Republicans - think the likes of John McCain that are looking a little weakened.
Is this the beginning of a more unstable and fractious era in US politics? Time will only tell.
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Now it would be nice to think that in New Zealand we have a greater spirit of co-operation amongst our politicians.
However I'm not sure we do.
That is evidenced by Prime Minister John Key's reluctance to work with Labour on the issue of child abuse .
Key said on Breakfast this week that taking a bi-partisan approach to the issue would be tricky as both parties had very different ideas about where new funding should come from to deal with the issue.
The push for a more unified political approach came from Key's own science advisor Sir Peter Gluckman.
He pleaded in a Q and A interview at the weekend that New Zealand needs to take the politics out of the child abuse issue and focus on policies that are actually proven to work.
Now I understand Key's point and I accept it's an election year and neither side is keen to do the other any favours.
However it remains pretty disappointing that we can't get our leaders to at least sit down and discuss the issue of child abuse in a rational way.
It's hardly an ideological battleground like asset sales.
And Key has showed in the past he can work constructively on such issues. He stepped up for example to support Helen Clark's anti-smacking legislation a few years ago. So why not now?
And it's not like Key and Labour leader Phil Goff can't work together when they really want to.
This week both leaders seemed to agree they should debate only each other in the upcoming TV election debates.
The minor parties, much to their frustration, will instead by left to scrap it out alone. Funny that.
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