Sunday, August 17, 2008

Professional politicians are the enemy

By Rick Morris

When it comes to politics, I am a recovering idealist.

I was very involved in politics during my college days and I remain involved in the efforts of my close friends who I met in those days. But that's about it.

I long ago abandoned my notions of a world divided into "good guys" and "bad guys" based on the different sides of the political aisle. Don't get me wrong, I haven't softened on those who I considered "on the other side" back in those days -- not at all. It's just that I came to realize that my side was equally infested with opportunistic greaseballs. Actually, I probably despise gutless sellouts "on my side" more than I do those who are openly on the other side.

Certainly, corruption is not the province of one side or the other. Just take a look at recent headlines:

^ Massive federal investigation of numerous public officials in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland area), Ohio -- Democrat
^ Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska in legal jeopardy for bribery -- Republican
^ Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann forced to resign because of various shenanigans with female employees and businesses of employees working underneath him -- Democrat
^ HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson resigned after steering federal contracts to Bush Administration allies and contributors -- Republican

And the tit-for-tat could go on and on ...

My awakening about the true nature of political realities came sequentially in the 1990s.

^ In college, I favored term limits and was happy to see my home state of Ohio adopt them. Seeing corruption and opportunism through the lens of Ohio's perennially Democrat-dominated state government, I believed that term limits would cleanse the system and bring about opportunities for citizen-politicians to come in and bring about positive change. WRONG! All that has happened since is a constant shuffling between jobs as politicians constantly trade offices when they are term-limited out and thus they remain on the public dole.

^ When the "Class of 1994" freshmen Republicans helped the GOP to take over Congress midway through Clinton's first term, I celebrated. Here was a group of idealistic ruffians who surely wouldn't be corrupted by D.C.'s evil ways. Well, while many of these Congressmen held to their convictions, there weren't enough of them to even begin to attempt positive change. The gargantuan size of the federal government has only continued to explode in the past 14 years. And while politicians like Newt Gingrich (or King-Squish, as I prefer to refer to him) and Tom DeLay (who would guide the Bush Administration Big Government initiatives through the House) talked a good game about downsizing government, they didn't even come close to living up to their big talk -- and now that they're out of Congress, they continue to talk a good game to their gullible rube supporters about how government needs to be brought under control! Utterly shameless.

^ In 1996, I naively believed that the Republican Party would look to nominate their strongest candidate to run against a still-vulnerable Bill Clinton. When my chosen candidate Pat Buchanan came a close second in Iowa against almost-native son Bob Dole and won New Hampshire outright, I was a happy man. But then the party colluded in smoke-filled rooms to rally behind the withered bones of Bob Dole and float risible lies about Buchanan's alleged extremism and racism. Pundit Samuel L. Francis, who was ironically allied with Buchanan, once referred to the Republicans as the "Stupid Party" and Democrats as the "Evil Party." There might never be a better example of this than '96.

^ When the Bush Administration assumed power in 2001, it would have a Republican-controlled Congress for all but 18 months (when Democrats ran the Senate in 2001-2002) over the next six years. As noted above, spending exploded, expensive giveaways to the seniors and drug companies were enshrined into federal law and the party took on an image of complete incompetence thanks to the unholy troika of the Iraq War, the Katrina aftermath and the complete lack of interest in communicating a vision to the American people.

My politics and my beliefs have not changed and they never will. However, my faith in the process is just about shot. Back in my college days, I used to marvel at how many people told me that they had similar beliefs to mine but would not get involved in politics because they frankly thought it was a waste of time. I thought they were too cynical, but sadly, they were just people who had absorbed the lessons of life faster than I had.

So are there any prescriptions for this dreary picture I have painted? Only a most unlikely one, given the institutional advantages that parasitic professional politicians have. The American people have to rally behind citizen-politicians who want to get into office for the right reasons and not make a living on the public payroll. Of course, I'd prefer if they were of my political stripe, but in the long run, it doesn't matter. If real citizens are successful in breaking up the monopoly of the political class on one side of the aisle, the other side will follow or risk getting left behind by an American populace that despises politicians but feels helpless to do anything about it.

Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn is a perfect example of the citizen-politician. He's an obstetrician who doesn't need the federal job but wants to serve some years and make an impact. He might be the most hated man by his peers in Congress (what an honor!) because he's all about busting up the Old Boys Club and getting rid of pork and all unnecessary spending. In retribution, California Senator Babs Boxer is trying to dump ethics violations on him -- I shiznit you not -- for the "crime" of delivering babies for poor women back home and not charging them any caysh. See, now if only he were crushing their skulls with forceps and not delivering them alive -- Babs would have no problem with that. According to these actions and her voting record on infanticide, there's nothing she hates more than live babies, I guess.

But Coburn doesn't care and he's going to keep doing it his way until he goes home to keep doing the job he considers his actual career full-time. Whilst in an Appalachian casino the other day, I spotted a gent wearing one of those old Stone Cold T-shirts, the ones that say (in the drawl of a typical Stone Cold fan) "Arrive -- Raise Hay'll -- Leave." If and when we finally replace all politicians on both sides with citizens who live up to the ideology of this wise T-shirt, We The American People will be able to rise up and give a big "Hay-ll Yeah!"

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