All too often, those we send to Washington as Presidents and members of Congress talk about being “the best of the best.”
“I will drain the swamp and I will replace it with the best of the best,” current President Donald Trump boasted after his election in 2016.
Former President Barack Obama said pretty much the same thing. So did George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and just about every other President of our nation.
In late 1984, I sat in a dinner for new members of the House of Representatives as then Congressman Trent Lott told those elected the month before that they were “the best of the best” to arrive in Washington to “serve the people.”
Lott lied. So does Trump and so did Obama, Bush and Clinton. The flawed and corrupt political system in America delivers flawed candidates with massive egos and often-criminal intentions elected by uninformed voters too easily conned.
The system that serves up these bad candidates is fueled by special interest money, power-mad political leaders and self-serving agendas. America is led by the worst of the worst because of a political system that serves and rewards the worst.
I know. I served and thrived in that system from 1981 through 1992: As press secretary to one Republican Congressman, chief of staff to another, special assistant to the ranking member of the House Science and Technology to yet another and political operative for the GOP on presidential and congressional campaigns.
I selectively used out-of-context quotes against candidates to help the one who paid me, gave another a quote from Hitler to another to use in a debate, fashioned a campaign calling a blonde, blue-eyed Secretary of State a “gringo” to secure enough votes in a Spanish-speaking area of New Mexico to secure victory for a Hispanic Congressman and told another candidate that his style of debate was so weak that “if you were standing up there on the stage masturbating, your hand would be asleep.”
That last comment above ended up in a Richard Gere movie about politics.
Such tactics brought better offers and more money from those who wanted to win. In elections, winning is everything. My winning record as a political operative was over 90 percent.
In 1994, I walked away from politics an alcoholic, bitter man who saw the bad in most people and used what I saw to advantage.
I went to Washington in 1981 after 17 years as a newspaperman with a plan to spend a couple of years learning more about how Washington worked. Washington, instead, worked on me and I let its seductive powers draw me into a world of money, power and dishonesty.
Today, after more than 23 years of sobriety, a lot of anger-management and a motorcycle crash that left me in a coma and near death for several weeks, I look at what is happening in Washington and shake my head while realizing that I helped nurture the madness. I returned to my roots as a newspaperman.
Donald Trump did not create the chaos that exists in Washington. He thrived on it and the seeds of depravity and corruption that runs the nation’s capital welcomed it into its morass.
He is the latest example of what Washington has become — a symbol of the destructive power of rabid partisanship, celebrity-driven egomania and voter gullibility.
Voters, driven by anger instead of reason, cast their votes for a narcissistic psychopath with no knowledge of government, no experience in an electoral system and a desire to profit from the stupidity of his “base.”
Still, those who actually voted cast most of their ballots for someone else. Trump received more than three million fewer votes than opponent Hillary Clinton but won because of an electoral college system that many feel is out-of-date.
When history hands down its judgement on how and why Trump managed to become President and worked hard to destroy the nation, it should not forget the many other reasons why America has come so close to the brink.
We’re all to blame and we’re the only ones who can fix it.
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