Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An Honest Politician is...

...one who stays bought.

Doug Thompson of Capitol Hill Blue writes:

Typical political arrogance:

"... no President in modern times is, or was, an honorable man. Clinton's presidency will be remembered more for scandal than anything else and the Monica Lewinsky scandal wasn't the only case of questionable conduct in office. His associated attorney general, Webster Hubbell, went to jail for tax evasion and defrauding the government. Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy took bribes and resigned in disgrace. Clinton lost his license to practice law for lying under oath. And he lied about American involvement in Somalia, a 'peacekeeping' operation that cost too many American lives.

Reagan's legacy is marred by Iran-Contra and a conservative agenda that still haunts the country today. Courts convicted a dozen members of his administration for misconduct or malfeasance in office. Jimmy Carter's credibility took a hit when Bert Lance, his director of the Office of Management and Budget, was indicted for financial misconduct and his brother signed on as a paid consultant to Libya. He recently has been linked to the UN oil-for-food scandal.

Yet Republicans still talk about the good old days when Reagan was President and Democrats say Clinton only lied about sex.

Sadly, both sides of the political spectrum suffer from selective myopia that allows them overlook failings of their own party while lambasting the same conduct by their opponents."

I do not think that one can be President and still be a plaster saint. One simply cannot rise to the apex of political power without having engaged in some form of compromise, moral and otherwise. It is both the nature of the game and of those who play it.

If you dig into the lives of even our most revered Presidents, we find less than perfect men, sometimes spectacularly so.

But all the truly successful men who seek and hold office have had some traits in common, as described in another of Doug's rants:

"Politics attracts the glib, the fast talker and the con artist," says George Harleigh, a retired political science professor who worked in the Nixon and Reagan administrations. "It's a natural place for those who think fast on their feet."

But these traits are identical to those of any successful leader. The distinction is not the traits, but the ethical principles at the core of the person. And we must also be reasonable with our expectations of such people. There are people that need power like other people need air to breathe. Like all such people with such driving needs, they will do whatever it takes to get it. So let us not place constraints upon them that assume it's really possible to take a deep breath and let the feeling pass. Rather, our expectations must presume that need - and expect them to meet that need in ways that are honorable and ethical as a condition for being permitted to "breathe" at all.

Our current training for people going into politics is distressingly amoral. The emphasis is on getting and holding onto power, and clearly little attention is given to using it wisely or well. Power has become an end in itself.

Aside from being wrong, a leader weilding power unwisely and without any sense of where and to what would be the best place apply it is worse than no leader at all.

Check your favorite news source for evidence of that.

Doug criticises Congress and the President for being corrupt. I criticise them for not fulfilling the conditions and requirements placed upon them as obligations in return for the opportunity to have power and all the many rewards that go with it.

It is not that they are corrupt and powerful - power does corrupt. It tends to make one arrogant. Worst of all, it tends to make the powerful think they are inherently entitled to power. That is why we have elections, and why working democracies have a good deal of communication and activism. WE have the duty - to them - to remind them of our donations of power, and the conditional nature of those donations.

We have no obligation as citizens to give power to those unsuited or unqualifed to wield it. Leaders must remember that while power has many rewards, it comes at a price, and part of that price is delivering effective leadership in a crisis.

We could pretty much automate govenement these days if it were not for that need for intelligent crisis management. And in a crisis, you need someone who knows when to throw out the rule book (and when NOT to, Mr. President), who can react swiftly and yet rationally to the unexpected - take note, Congress and White House - and adapt to evolving circumstances.

We also need people who anticipate, plan, and who are willing to attach their good name and career to the value of that planning and foresight.

But when the stuff hits the fan, they need to be able to rise up, realize that this is time to put duty ahead of personal political fortune and do what needs to be done, not what their desires or their fears tell them. We need courage, we deserve informed leadership, we have the right to expect a government that is smarter collectively than the average sixth grader, and when we, as citizens are up to our necks in water - we expect government to move heaven and earth to get to us, rather than creating excuses and putting up roadblocks to keep help away until the forms that haven't been printed are signed by those who have not yet been properly delegated.

We have had some famous rogues in the Oval Office and, Lord knows, many more in Congress. But at the same time we have been generally blessed by those who did rise to the occasion.

But this time we are saddled by those who have embraced deceit as a political philosopy; people who lie not just to mislead our foes and their political opponets strategically, but habitually and often transparently. It's been common to hear excuses form our Senators and Congressmembers to explain why they were surprised by the implications of this initiative or that bill.

Well, ya dumb fucks, if you'd have read the damn bills, you would have known better.

And if you can't read, or even staff the reading, research and summary of 1300 page bill so you understand it, vote "no."

Senators and Congressmen, those persons you elected to the Budget and Defense Subcommittes are not there to tell YOU what to do, they are delegated BY you to tell you what YOU need to know in order to excercise the power delegated you by the people of your state and district. You have no obligation to them; quite the contrary.

If they cannot deliver a proper bill - one that you could show a sixth grader - vote no.

It's real simple. If it seems like it's intended to baffle you with bullshit and bury you in trivia, that's probably the point. And that means you have a right and a duty to demand some more honest and honorable folk on that comittee. Yourself, for example.

We expect our Congresspeople to be rogues, con-men, fixers and greasers. Indeed, I think it clear that the Founders were more than aware of that aspect of their jobs and the need to do it, and do it well. That is the sort of person needed, the mindset required to balance competing interests that could otherwise lead to actual interstate conflict.

We need our con-men, our grifters, our pork-barrel packers. We too must undrestand that while we are a govenment of laws (and far too many regulations,) we need to realize that those laws and regulations are, of necessity general, and will never apply to every case with equal force or justice.

Our Founders also relied upon the common sense of people to elect those who were beholden to them, not to some other "higher" loyalty, be it religion, be it party, or even too much principle.

For example - Our Senate Minority Leader, one Harry Reid, is a devout Mormon. Has he ever let his religious interests interfere in the state's primary source of revenue, gambling and other forms of predominantly heterosexual vice?

No. He knows that aside from filling his campaign chest, casinos employ his constituants, brothals pay taxes that build schools - and those taxes are extracted primarily from Californians, Texans, New Mexicans and others.

I would not expect to find him at the Bunny Ranch. But if Dennis Hoff calls him, I expect he answers the phone personally. And if he donsn't, he's a damn poor Senator.

You don't get to pick your constituants.

And that is the problem. The republican party has decided that they represent their "base." Period. And only so long as that base supports them blindly. They have done little or nothing to forward the disturbingly theocratic ideals of that base, largely meaningless legislation that is so poorly crafted as to be slapped down by the first judge to see it.

That, and some empty rhetoric, and a few dollars slipped to the faithful here and there.

Except, of course, the faithful on the Gulf Coast. It is apparently too expensive for the party to repay them for their support.

And that decision is one of a thousand "worst mistakes" just like it.

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