A Clue to America's Ills


Let me relate a small part of a discussion I had with a normally sensible reader regarding some minor political point. It demonstrated to me, in the most curious but unmistakable manner, exactly why there is no intelligent political discussion occurring in America these days.

I had stated that I was in the process of researching and writing my next column and he asked what the topic was. I explained that it was a report on the Republican controlled Senate Finance Committee's decision to change the CPI (Consumer Price Index) without bothering to allow any dissenting voices to be either on the panel nor before the assemblage as witnesses. I tried to illustrate how this adjustment was, not only completely politically motivated and the campaign related issues behind it, but how the lower percentage would cost him a great deal of money as his employer based his raises on this figure.

His reply? Amazingly, he said, "Yeah! That's what you get with Clinton."

"What", I asked, "did Clinton have to do with the subject? It is a Republican dominated Senate committee that is primarily responsible for this dilemma, not Clinton, although I agree he is, once again, doing nothing to alleviate the damage."

"Listen, Clinton is the President so if things like this are happening then it's his fault!", he averred.

"Okay." I asked, "If that's the case, then the twelve years before Clinton was elected, in which the budget deficit went through the roof, the CIA constantly lied in Presidential briefings about the military power of the USSR in order to provide an excuse for spending billions of tax dollars on unnecessary intelligence gathering and defense expenditures while depending on spies that they knew to be double agents, the S&L disaster, hundreds of thousands of American workers laid off, with the financial assistance of the federal government, so that corporations could move their jobs overseas, drugs smuggled into the U.S.by the CIA in order to pay for an illegal war in Central America, AIDS research virtually ignored, literally hundreds of appointed federal officials either investigated or indicted and charged with crimes and who spent serious prison time, millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks in the Housing and Urban Development Department, hundreds of U.S. Marines slaughtered in an unprotected base in Beruit, Lebanon, the President's schedule being determined by the First Lady's astrologer, and on and on were then all the fault of Reagan and Bush? Since all of these evils and stupidities happened on their watch then, according to your theory, these Republican Presidents have basically destroyed what we thought of as the American way of life?"

"No," he replied, "the Democratic Congress caused most of that stuff."

This entire conversation simply stunned me. Here was exactly the reason that the various factions can find no circumstances to begin any attempt to repair what ails America. How can voters guide the nation into the future when they are so willing to rewrite history in order to serve whatever their current political aspiration might be? No matter what the facts are, just ignore them and place the blame on whoever may have been elected without your support. That way you don't have to defend, even to yourself, the contemptible actions of those for whom you did vote.

Now please understand, I agree with the contention that Clinton is one of the worst things that could have happened to the Presidency, on a par with the election of the old actor and the lip reader. Clinton will do and say whatever it takes to either be re-elected or to insure the election of Gore in the next Presidential elections. Clinton would literally be lost without his pollsters around, telling what he thinks and believes in from day to day.

What truly stupefies me, though, is that anyone can believe that either party is solely responsible for the mess we, as a nation, find ourselves in. It is the fault, instead, of both parties equally, as well as the responsibility of the voters who refuse to invest the time and energy necessary to elect the best candidates to any office. Voting without understanding what is at stake, and not what the candidates and pundits claim is at stake, is reprehensible at best and destructive to democracy at its worst.

Unless and until we as voters refuse to look for someone to blame and begin, instead, to just concentrate on improving the situation, then this low form of political thought will continue to govern our day to day policy debates. If we can't rise above the nastiness of this climate of misplaced condemnation then we are surely doomed to continue our decline.

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