America is in free fall – a failed nation led by failed leaders with failed ideas serving a lemming-like populace that views failure as an acceptable alternative.
Today’s America is flawed in so many ways that analysis of the complex events that led us to the precipice is difficult at best.
How did we get here? Can we save what once was a great country built upon noble notions of freedom? Is redemption possible or even desirable?
It is easy to point blame at George W. Bush. He is a monumental failure as a President, a serial liar who led this nation into a war that cannot be won. He and those who both serve and advise him systematically dismantled the Constitution, trampled the freedoms upon which that hallowed document is based and destroyed a democratic republic that has stood the test of time, bad leaders and assaults for more than two centuries.
Bush, however, capitalized on a system of government that has been failing for decades, seizing opportunity made possible by an ever-increasing federal bureaucracy, rampaging government waste and corruption and constant, unrelenting assaults upon our individual freedoms and rights.
Republicans took over control of Congress in the 1994 midterm elections by nationalizing the debate over abuse of federal authority and promising, through a propaganda milestone called The Contract with America, to reduce the size and role of government, rid the system of pork barrel politics and do away with the self-serving political interests that controlled Washington.
Instead, the power, size and cost of government have grown as never before under the Republican leadership of Congress and, along with it, the power of special interest groups who pay the bills for multi-million dollar election campaigns. Over the last 12 years, the GOP-led Congress passed budget-busting budget bills laden with pork and subservient to the power-brokers who prowl the halls of government like Mafia bag-men, passing out favors to those who deliver the goods.
Republicans sold America to the special interests who, in turn, poured money into the campaign coffers that have, in effect, allowed the GOP to buy elections by overwhelming opponents with far less financing. We saw the power of money this week in Rhode Island where a multi-million dollar GOP voter turnout effort turned the tide for Sen. Lincoln Chafee.
Such success has its cost and the bill for this comes from a devil called corruption. Republicans sold their souls to that devil long ago in a bid to take, and then keep, control of Congress. The scandals that brought down Republican power lobbyists Jack Abramoff and cost GOP office holders like Tom DeLay and Duke Cunningham their jobs is part of a much larger scandal of how money and power corrupt politics but that investigation is stalled in a Justice Department controlled by the Bush Administration and the promise of real campaign reform lies buried under a mountain of broken promises on Capitol Hill.
But while Republicans turned corruption into an art form, they did not invent it. Congress was a corrupt old-boy network before the GOP marched into the leadership offices after the 1994 elections. Democrats played favorites and owed their souls to the power brokers of organized labor and other special interest groups. Savvy political operatives like Congressman Tony Coelho taught Democrats how to sell votes to big business in exchange for fat contributions from political action committees. Coelho quit Congress amid questions about his own financial dealings and later resigned as the chairman of Al Gore’s presidential campaign because of a Justice Department investigation into even-more shady deals.
Republicans have Duke Cunningham. Democrats have William Jefferson. When the Dems controlled Congress, Ways & Means Chairman Danny Rostenkowski went to jail for misusing his Congressional office funds. He followed a long line of Democratic chairman to fall from grace. Remember Wayne Hayes or Wilbur Mills?
Political corruption goes back to the beginnings of the Republic. George Washington faced charges of selling favors to the special interests of his day. The term "lobbyist" comes from the favor-seekers who used to hang out in the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington and wait for a drunken President Ulysses S. Grant to emerge from the bar so they could bribe him into seeing things their way.
There’s no doubt that the current President of the United States and the leadership of Congress must go. They have individually and collectively abused the public trust and abandoned the Constitution they swore to uphold. The very survival of the republic may depend on what voters do in the November mid-term elections and again in 2008.
Yet I am not convinced that replacing one set of politicians with another can fix the problems that face America. All we really do is kick out one group of bought and sold political hacks and put another set in their place. Nancy Pelosi is a politician for sale just like Denny Hastert. She just has different owners and none of the corrupt "votes for sale to the highest bidder" elected officials believe they owe anything to average Americans.
George W. Bush’s failed war in Iraq may be the central issue of this election but the problems that infect our body politic go much, much deeper. The core of our government is rotting and corrupt and it may take more drastic action than just angry voters at the ballot box to rid the system of the cancer that threatens this country.
Bill Clinton served two terms in office because he beat the current President’s dad, a failed President, and the best the Republicans could muster against him in 1996 was, God forbid, Bob Dole. Clinton was hardly a shining example of political or moral leadership. He abused the powers of his office and dallied with an intern when he should have been tending to business. Several members of his administration went to jail and he lost his law license for lying under oath.
Bush II gets two terms because the best the Dems could come up with were Al Gore and Bob Kerry. The final chapter of Bush’s Presidency is not yet written but it will not be pretty or complimentary. His many failures will serve future courses of political science on the costs of failures of leadership.
Would Gore have been any better? We’ll never know but given his lackluster political career to date and his own ethical problems with fundraising as Senator and Vice President, I doubt it. When you look at the choices we have faced on the Presidential ballots of modern times, you have to question a political system that allows such people to rise to the top. When failed, flawed candidates are the only choices, all you get is a failed, flawed President.
For 2008, the picture doesn’t look much better. Our choices may be between Hillary Clinton and John McCain.
There’s a signpost up ahead: Next stop, the Twilight Zone.