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The emails started minutes after Monday’s column about the blame game between George W. Bush and Bill Clinton appeared on this web site.
“So glad you pinned the blame on Clinton,” wrote one woman, who identified herself as a lifelong Republican, “but did you have to bash Bush as well?”
A voice from the other side of the political fence congratulated us for saying Bush was less than perfect but castigated us one sentence later for pointing out that Clinton’s presidency was long on immorality but short on truth.
“Make up your mind,” he said, “are you a Democrat or a Republican, a liberal or a conservative?”
Mission accomplished. A old city editor many years ago told me that “when you make both sides mad, you’ve done your job.”
Longtime readers of this column know I’m no fan of partisanship – either Democrat or Republican. Partisanship avoids reality by seeing everything through blinders. The other guy is always the crook and your guy does nothing wrong.
Which, of course, is unmitigated bullshit. The simple, sad fact is neither political party has a monopoly on truth or morality. Both sides have their fair share of tail chasers, liars, check kiters, crooks and thieves. I can show you Republicans in Congress who make Clinton look like a shrinking wallflower when it comes to chasing young women.
Democrat Jim Traficant is going to prison for his conviction for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion. He joins a long list of elected officials – both Democrat and Republican – who have done time.
Partisans on each side of an issue believe their side is righteous and above reproach while the other guy is corrupt and beyond redemption, but one side can’t always be right and the other side always be wrong. Mark Twain once said there were three sides to every story – your side, my side and the truth.
Yet the Democrats who rallied behind Bill Clinton and claimed Republican efforts to impeach him were a “witch hunt” now point their fingers with glee at questions about Bush and Cheney and their dealings while in the corporate world. At the same time, Republicans who decried the Democrats as blind apologists for Clinton now rally behind Bush and Cheney and claim the Dems are blowing smoke.
While it remains to be seen if either Bush or Cheney actually violated any laws – as Clinton clearly did – the search for truth is not served by stonewalling on one side or political posturing on the other.
We have every right to expect honesty from our elected officials. Unfortunately, we seldom get it. Clinton lied about nailing Monica Lewinsky. Bush tried to hide from a DUI arrest, an omission that almost cost him the election (and probably did cost him the popular vote).
I wouldn’t let Bill Clinton near my daughter (or the silverware), but I’m not sure I’d have George W. Bush over for a backyard barbeque either. I’d like to trust Bush – and in the days following 9/11 he seemed more genuine than any President in recent memory – but there is still something there that says “let’s wait and see.”
Perhaps it is the cynicism of the times. Or maybe it’s 20 plus years in Washington, watching elected officials up close. The media is no help. They fell hook, line and sinker for John McCain’s “just one of the boys” act, a media strategy carefully crafted by his high priced team of consultants.
It’s best to approach all politicians warily, but such warnings fail when directed at partisans who are always willing to ignore transgressions just as long as their guy is right on abortion, or women’s rights, or the death penalty and whatever the hell else is the hot issue of the day for the party.
Too many elected officials, unfortunately, are little more than political whores.
And when we deal with whores, iremember that the very best we will ever get is screwed.