It’s the system, stupid

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?

070406burn.jpgIt 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.


  1. blom

    firstly gotta say be more careful flinging charges of treason about. unless you can prove bush conspired with foreigners to carry out 9/11, none of the other bad things he’s done have been treason. go read the constitution.

    secondly what the hell is this?
    “National priorities (IMO):
    1) 100% public financing of campaigns.
    2) Term limits for all elected pols.
    3) Regulation and incentives for companies to reinvest profits instead of selling their infrastructure to show quarterly profits.”

    look at that: two measures aimed at reforming the political problems, one right out of left field that has nothing to do with politics.
    this is why we can’t get anything done – any plan of action turns into a “christmas tree” with all you freaks & weirdos adding bits of your personal wishlist to it.
    lets just strip it down to the bare bones & find some things we can all agree on, then stop despairing & start acting.
    what we can all agree on:
    1. abolish electronic voting
    2. proportional representation

    go & start a petition now. some states allow for binding citizens-initiated referenda – so start the petition for legislation to outlaw electronic voting (even in states which don’t already have it – secure democracy now before it’s too late).
    then the petition to introduce instant runoff voting at all levels controlled by the state – this doesn’t require a constitutional amendment!

  2. John

    I used to have this argument with a old Russian. I would complain about the government and he would say would you prefer a socialist government. I said no I would prefer a democracy. He would say you don’t get it. Its animal farm. Whoever you put in office will eventually become as corrupt as the people you replace. A sad statement on mankind.

  3. V

    I hate to tell you this, but Canada is now controlled by neo-cons also!
    They just haven’t been there long enough to really screw things up yet.
    I’m afraid the ONLY option is to fight like hell for your home turf.

  4. Lance

    Watch a Hannity show, look at the dribble he expounds…Then think of the massive audience that listens sheep-like to his ever word and thinks it gospel.

    Listen to that hate filled venom, then think to yourself….Sure! I can change that!

    No, it’s not going to happen.

    Americans will Happily embrace a Dictatorship, because the majority of Americans don’t want to think let alone act.

    We are seeing the Tyranny of the masses in Action…in this case it’s Inaction..

  5. Ken

    It required a few CIA transgressions but now we, as a nation, maintain a status of being responsible for 50% of the world’s ac load and 1/3 in general of all energy consumption. Let’s not upset things by tinkering with the system.

    I know, we are addicted, but is it not a small price, $3.00 per plus supporting (on credit, the children will pick up the tab) a private militia (Iraq) to underwrite Big Oil?

    The system? Who cares who is in congress. No amount of education is going to fix me.

    Or maybe if we could start over going back to the mid 30’s when GM began trashing any sensible approach to a nation’s infrastructure. But does that not illustrate how we humans can always be always manipulaed?

  6. J B Westwood

    Reufully gazing into the society mirror may satisfy our desire to cluck and fingerpoint, but it’s no substitute for an intelligent attack on problems. No reform, short of violence, can begin without legislative power which must be wrested from two party tyranny. How is the question? No way seems possible without grass roots birth and nurture of third and maybe a fourth political movement, not party–movement. How can that be done? Education is critical and probably only possible thru internet’s blogosphere. Once political power is achieved, legislation to promote widespread public awareness of national and global problems must become a never-to-be-surrrendered national goal. A large percentage of the electro-magnetic spectrum must be reclaimed by government for PUBLIC USE a la Natl Public Radio. Corporate personhood must be forever nullified. Other massive changes, beyond my immediate imagination, which recognize global crises such as population, climate change, and labor slavery must be addressed. Unrealistic idealism? No,realism– elevated to critical examination. We MUST find ways to keep sociopaths from public power!
    If I were’t a grandparent, I’d just ask that my gravestone show only a middle finger.

  7. Alex H

    Unfortunately Doug, you are right.

    I put no faith in either party, they are two sides of the same coin.

    I have no faith in the american public either.We will find out in less than two months if my suspisions are true, that the public at large is worse than stupid! Thier priorities seem to be watching “reality” tv than caring about thier own freedoms and rights. WOW!

    I guess it may take much more oppression to finally wake this nation from it’s zombie like slumber. We seem to be a nation of the living dead. Let’s hope that all this is temporary.

    Our government is quickly putting in place the “tools” to become the “enemy of the people”.

  8. Sadiq Shirazie

    Well said Dough. Fully endorsing everything you have said. America has become a threat to its ownself with the repeated presence and governance of Government by not only morally corrupt representatives but Nationalistically Dead Leaders who go ahead and hog on their hollow egos. Even pat their own shoulders!

    One can only leave behind a nightmare for every one of our future generation to suffer through and try not to remember or a legacy for everyone to respect and enjoy.

    The American people -the American electorate must reaccess their Voting values” from scratch!! Half the values most politicians huff and puff about in election campaigns are blown away with the winds of reality. It takes that much to disturb the serenity of the pool of sane political governance.

  9. Lance

    These are great ideas…

    “National priorities (IMO):
    1) 100% public financing of campaigns.
    2) Term limits for all elected pols.
    3) Regulation and incentives for companies to reinvest profits instead of selling their infrastructure to show quarterly profits.”

    However none of it will happen. I like all the statements here..but I am reminded of a group of intellectuals gathered before a city gate that the Mongol horde is busy breaking down, torches in hand and they are debating ways to reason with them.

    All of it to little, too late. The cat is out of the bag. No matter how optimistic you are, Murphy’s law is in effect here:

    1. The Damage is Done.
    2. The NeoCons have subverted congress as a WHOLE.
    3. Americans are by far to lazy/stupid to fix things.

    Be wise and figure out how to move to Canada.

  10. Fred T

    I have to say that I have been reading your Rant for a short while, but this article is something that is regurgitated from past articles. I get it, there is plenty of crooks that were in office and such and the dems have been just as bad. But htis article is made toget people frustrated and discourage voting at the max. That is the problem these days, people dont vote because they are discouraged by candidates. Thanks Doug for a completely useless article that is a pandering piece for the right-wingers that probably complain that your too hard on their boy. We need deadlock in washington, and articles like this is just gonna keep status quo.

  11. V

    It does no good to constantly complain about the failures of Bush and his cronies. You yourself have observed that Bush is a traitor, so what is the point of continuing to just complain ?
    What you need to do is to concentrate on specific examples of his outrageous treason. One place you might look at is the monstrous scheme to create a North American Union, composed of the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The concrete evidence of this is that these busy little bees are in the process of stealing land (excuse me…exercising Eminent Domain) from millions of landowners in Texas as part of creating a right-of-way for the so-called Trans-Texas Corridor, a superhighway that will eventually run all the way from Canada down through the central U.S. and all the way to ports in Mexico.
    Word has it that Bush and his minions are expecting to get fabulously wealthy off this deal, ergo the appointment of his new Transportation Secretary.
    This highway will basically be a massive toll-road owned and operated by Spaniards. (I thought the Apaches ran their asses out of Texas a couple of hundred years ago.)
    Cities like Dallas will be designated as “inland ports”. Mexican trucks will have free run over our borders and you can forget about any border security, let alone national identity.
    Alex Jones and Wayne Madsen have published many articles on this, but I don’t believe we have heard from you on the matter. Would you please do some research on this and chime in for us ?

  12. Frank

    I’ve given up on the Excited States of America. There is no true democracy without proportional representation. In a two party system with winner take all elections the status quo will never change since both parties essentailly represent the same power structure in slightly and insignificantly different ways.

  13. Paul

    Doug, the flaw is in the nature of immature people and until that can be cured, no system is fail proof. There are people who are internally compelled to service others equally with themselves because they deeply understand that is the only functional method in which a society can endure. Then there are those who are driven to service themselves without regard for others, indeed, at the expense of others. They will appear to care about, and service their “people” so long as it serves their own needs. Those people create a dysfunctional world and the ONLY direction their continued actions lead to is a dead end and an inevitable collapse. Unfortunately, be it a democracy, communism, socialism, monarchy, dictatorship, or organized religion, it is those types of people whom covet positions of leadership because with those positions comes money, power and prestige – all the things they worship, while those who understand and truly practice the golden rule are anonymous and too busy working in the trenches with no desire to engage in the petty, childish world the others create and revel in. Regrettably, their presence in leadership also leads to an erosion of the principles and ideals that any great society is originally built upon but it is slow and insidious, therefore not recognized soon enough by those who care for others and who mistakenly trust they are being given the truth by their “leaders” until the collapse becomes so monumental it can no longer be hidden.

    You are not the only person who sees the slide and rants and worries over it. How many people around the country do you suppose are asking the same questions you have asked over and over while pulling your hair out – “Am I the only one that can see what is happening? How can people be so blind?”
    I commend your attempt to form a group to confront the serious issues this country is engulfed in. You are obviously a person who passionately cares and who is willing to act and sacrifice for such as cause because it benefits everybody. Unfortunately you live in a world where there aren’t many like you, yet. We are around and working on the problems in our own ways and in our own groups. Do not get too discouraged. Things will change for the better. More people will spiritually grow up and internally understand participation, sacrifice, honesty, openness and the golden rule are what make a society great and what makes a great society endure. It is when enough people reach this epiphany that the adult children of this world will be removed from power.

  14. Watching the Koppel program on Sun, I was rather surprised at the amount of influence that 2 low level lawyers have on the bush administration. They are John Yoo and Viet Dinh(i think that is correct spelling) It seems that memos from these 2 people are the things that got everything started. Who are they, and where did they get their ideas on presidential power?
    Why did the current administration go along with these guys on what is essentially a power grab.
    I have been voteing since the 1972 election, and have never seen such a power grab by either party. Now, whatever you might say about GHWB, at least he knew the limits of presidential power, he knew how to get and keep allies in GWI, and he knew when to break a promise(no new taxes) to keep things running. Now we have a dry drunk in power, one who is beyond stubborn, making the decisions, bad ones each and every one.
    And now, due to the idiots in the dem party, like Shrum, the dems are, once more, in line to lose again. Will the dems get shrumed once more? Why the hell won’t they fight back,or even fight first? better yet, why do the sheeple continue to vote for people who are fleecing them?

  15. Phil

    Thanks Rob, you nailed a big part of it. The more a populace is educated, the more they’re capable of seeing through the smoke & mirrors. Any fascist regime wants an uneducated, gulliable populace that can be easily led, and this one is no different. Hence the cuts in school funding, the Every Child Left Behind program and the huge support for religious indoctrination.

    In the meantime – great column, but how can the system be changed? Playing their own game will never work. Anyone who tries to effect real change through political channels will never get a foot in the door. Any politician who tries to work for peace will be destroyed by AIPAC.

    So what can we do? Stop paying taxes en masse? Worth a shot, but it’ll be a magnet for punishment when the fascist police state comes. Boycott every media company that’s connected to special interests? Impossible; I already give it my best shot, but what percentage of the nation could stand to live without their precious cable TV?

    Maybe the system is too big and powerful to change. Maybe the best we can do is protect ourselves and the country for when it finally collapses.

  16. constance Evans

    Dear Doug,

    “The best the Dems could come up with were Al Gore and John Kerry”.

    Two candidates who shared three serious handicaps: intelligence, integrity and vocabulary.

    Heaven seems to forbid a slim majority of Americans from voting for anyone they suspect of being smarter or more honest than they are.

    It might be true that the Democrats are corrupt. But at least they seem to grasp the idea that perfection should not become the enemy of a greater albeit imperfect good.

    Republicans, to the contrary, cannot lead, do not follow and worst of all, won’t even get out of the way. They take public discourse to the level of witless bar room ain’t it awful rants, more neatly summarized as Fear, Smear and Queer.

    Please don’t try to give the “Dems” any credit for the accomplishments of this Republican installment of government which has taken shameless incompetence and stupidity to new and breathtaking heights.

  17. liz

    Now that all American authority is concentrated in the decider’s hands, please fellow Citizens have mercy on Borrelia patients. We are Tuskegee part two. We are infected with Spirochetes and our government condones NOT TREATING US> BUSH IS REPLAYING TUSKEGEE IN THE HOMELAND> HELP US PLEASE

  18. John Strause

    Doug, you have hit the nail on the head. My father a real “conservative Republican” and a Jeffersonian had a bumper sticker that said “This fall fire them all, re-elect NOBODY!”

    If that were executed we would have an all new legislature (at all levels) and in most places would automatically get party reversal. Not a bad idea, and really how bad could they screw it up compared to our present crew of corrupted “leaders”?

    I am working with the Draft Mark Warner movement because I believe he is the kind of leader we need. I hope others will join me (in great numbers and the sooner the better)!

  19. Carl Nemo

    Thanks Doug for the superbly written editorial…one of your finest and “on the mark”. America is in “harms way” and has been so for several decades or more. Our leader’s and this nation have become a a “ship of fools”.

    Carl Nemo, Ridgefield, WA

  20. Doubtom

    I will agree with the above writer that’s it’s time to hit the streets with a massive demonstration but instead of “one that will be heard throughout the nation” we need one that will be heard and seen throughout the world. Our power, both economic and military, extends to the entire world and it will take a concerted move on the part of a “united world” to derail the empire builders who masquerade as practioners of democracy.

    Power is illusory and we are not unstoppable once the world gets enough of our insufferable arrogance. If we are incapable of controlling our ambitious mad men, rest assured that a “united world” will see to bringing a better balance to the world.

  21. I think it’s imperative that we start fixing the system with education.

    First, yesterday I listened to the local nut jobs of the neocon type blather on about stupid voters, and maybe we shouldn’t allow them to vote. They favored disenfranchisement over education, which would solve the true problem. More importantly, an education that focuses on the central realities of what ideals this country was founded on. That would necessitate a knowledge of the Declaration of Independence., US Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. Which are by the way, available in a handy pocket version from the American Bar Association. Buy one and know these documents yourselves. Brought to you by a friendly carpenter/firefighter/Buddhist.

    Yes, getting the present admin out is important. But the dearth of knowledge among the population that will make up future politicos needs to be corrected so the future isn’t simply a rehashing of today. At the very least, it will be at minimum a more intelligent version.

  22. Lysistrata

    Mr. Thompson, you try very hard to not be partisan at the price of fairness. Yes Clinton/Gore are flawed people but they are more competent than Bush and his advisers can ever hope to be.

    Gore would have been a more competent president, we would not be in the mess we are now in. Whatever faults President Clinton has, he is a better man than Bush.

    Maybe this is partisan, but fair is fair. IMHO

  23. Michael

    AS I read all the posts in here, I’m so glad to see that I’m not crazy. Before I had a computer, before I had satellite TV I thought I was the only person that thought george bush was a mad man. But when I got all these neat toys I see and hear now that I have a lot of company in the way I think. Its to bad more people to not take the time to learn who thay are voteing for and do more reading and learning about the person who is going to be running there lifes and the world for years.