“A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.” Theodore Roosevelt
“Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honor, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.” Franklin Roosevelt
There are under 30 days left until the people of the Untied States elect a new President, a new House of Representatives and one third of the US Senate. The one thing that has stuck me about most of the politics of this election season have been the mind numbing smallness, pettiness and lack of transparency shown by candidates across the spectrum. For me the issue is less about political party or even the candidates that are running in this election but a divide in the electorate that has become almost pathological. Neither the partisans of the extreme right or extreme left will budge on their particular agendas and have succeeded in dividing the country as we have not seen in our lifetimes.
I have these times when lost in thought I imagine what it was like to have truly great political leaders in this country and inWestern Europe. It just seems to me that those that we have entrusted with the reigns of government and those that aspire to the highest office in this country are perhaps the most pathetic, small minded, petty thin skilled and visionless that this country has ever produced. I do not see a great leader such as Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan in the lot of them. As for the women that aspire to lead this country I see no Margaret Thatcher or Golda Meir among them. In fact I don’t even see any truly skilled politicians like Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon out there.
I guess I say this because the whole lot of them seem to spend a lot more time campaigning for office even while in office than they actually spend working with their allies and political adversaries to do the right thing even if it goes against their ideology. Lord knows that our political philosophy is important, but ideology, especially when it become sacrosanct is more than a philosophy of how our leaders should govern it is a set of shackles that binds them to one course of action, one set of beliefs and to the masters that they are beholden.
Campaigning is actually a lot easier than leading or governing because now days it has very little to do with substance or personal qualifications or achievement it simple means that suck up to people that have money and power better than others. When politicians do that either by supporting one special interest or another without qualification they fail to honor the oath that they took when they entered office. When the pledge their fealty to a certain cause or position regardless of its actual merits such as the Left has done with its pet constituencies and the Right is unabashedly doing as Presidential candidates sign pledges committing them to do what certain interest groups dictate they show that they are willing to prostitute themselves and their office to those interest groups.
Since our political class lives in constant campaign mode why should we expect them to actually take a risk and do something for the benefit of the country once they are elected? They obviously don’t feel any need to otherwise as they would be taking risks to try to build with what we have at hand to save the country even the risk of not being elected or reelected. The great Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir said “I can honestly say that I was never affected by the question of the success of an undertaking. If I felt it was the right thing to do, I was for it regardless of the possible outcome.” That is what our leaders need to be saying and doing now.
It seems that those campaigning for the highest office in the land are spineless crybabies. Yogi Berra once said “All pitchers are liars or crybabies” well I think we can say that “All politicians are liars or crybabies” and be right on target. I was amazed when I watched coverage of the great Iowa Imbecile Debate and Straw Poll this weekend and in the weeks leading up to this. It was like watching a bunch of spoiled children calling each other names and then getting mad and crying when they got asked questions that they don’t want to answer accusing those that ask of asking “gotcha” questions. When caught in obvious contradictions in regard to their campaign rhetoric and what they really do they lie or make excuses. I watched the movie The Blues Brothers Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) tells his brother Jake “It wasn’t a lie it was bullshit” and I thought about our politicians in office and on the campaign trail.
They are a humorless lot who when you come right down to it have their every whim catered to and surround themselves with “yes” men and women. This has to be true because if they had one person of true character and honesty that would have the unmitigated courage to say “What the fuck? Over” we might actually see them dealing with the real issues of our day; war, massive unemployment, a currency crisis decaying infrastructure and educational standards not to even mention the debt. John F. Kennedy said something that resonates today “A nation which has forgotten the quality of courage which in the past has been brought to public life is not as likely to insist upon or regard that quality in its chosen leaders today – and in fact we have forgotten.”
Somehow it seems that none of our current leaders or those running for their party’s nomination to the highest office in the land has the gravitas to stand by their word or the character to lay aside differences to work with their opponents to actually do something positive for once. I cannot remember the last time that any of our leaders have done this except when they cobble together massive bills which sometimes have sections of questionable Constitutional legality that none have ever read before the President signs them into law. That’s not leadership, which is not wisdom, that is not foresight and that is not vision. That is cowardice masked in legislative accomplishment. Theodore Roosevelt said “A typical vice of American politics is the avoidance of saying anything real on real issues.”
Unfortunately most of us are more interested in seeing our interests and agendas advanced no matter what we say. After all we elect these men and women time after time and in our hyper-polarized body politic we would sacrifice the country to get our guys, whoever they are elected. Ideology, political preservation and even religious dogma substitute for reason and personal courage in our world and we are paying for it.
Unfortunately I have no answers on how to solve this except that as a nation we need to start thinking big again to start actually believing in this country. We need to work together like we haven’t since John F. Kennedy challenged us to put men on the moon in under a decade. The challenges are for the taking but our leaders have to be men and women of character and courage to take them up and a population willing to commit to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty”
I actually think that John F. Kennedy said what we need to be doing now better than almost anyone I can imagine because what he said cuts to the heart of our present political crisis. “Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.”
I think that we can turn things around but we will have to stop the current political fratricide in order to do so. We have to take responsibility for the future even as we clean up the mess that we have made in the past. If we don’t we are going to suffer even worse consequences than we are experiencing now. The stakes are great and the question is will we rise to the occasion?
God help us,