Wusses, Bastards and Politicians
Posted by Jonathan
Politics, Politics, Politics. Gah! Sometimes I get so frustrated with politics that I feel the drive to become a politician myself just to fight back. Of course I won’t. It’s not for a lack of passion, more because of a realist’s attitude towards the amount of time that it would take to pursue that career. I’m already 13 years into my own, thank you very much. Still, it’s tempting. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a government where each person focused on accomplishing what they thought was right instead of following the party line?
It serves me right for reading a politician’s memoir. Reading about the realities of the political process always stirs me up. This time it comes from reading Decision Points by George W. Bush. I’m surprised by this quality of the book. Based on his reputation and the impression that I got of him from a distance I expected the book to be trite, self-serving and impotent. I was wrong. Instead, the book is raw, eye-opening and has depth. As I’m reading it I’m struck by the impression that W is a genuinely good person who did his best to do what he thought was the right thing to do. Unfortunately, due to the battleground atmosphere of modern American politics and American Media all that I ever saw of him was a spinfluenced caricature (and yes, I just made up a word… quite proud of it actually). I’m surprised to say that Decision Points is my must read pick of the year for 2011.
The book is organized into chapters focused on the key topics of interest during W’s presidency. The titles are things like Day of Fire, Katrina, Afghanistan and Surge. The book was written in such a way that a person can look back on it after a number of years and understand what the president knew, why he thought the way he did and why he made the decisions that he did. I’ve found the style to be extremely successful and informative. The style is particularly informative when it describes what he tried to do and why. It’s a peek behind the curtain at the most important job in the world. Unfortunately, the thing that it reveals most glaringly to me is the corruption in our political system.
Obviously there are Democrat leaders that look bad in the book, but it is more of a fact based retelling than an attack. I’ll go into more detail in a moment, but the primary thing that I take away is not a frustration with a given political party, so much as I’m left with a bad taste in my mouth over partisan politics in general and more specifically I’m disgusted by the partisans themselves. I don’t think any of us are naïve enough to believe that politics is a one sided game. I believe president Obama is dealing with exactly the kind of inane; cut of your nose to spite your face politics from the republicans as Bush was from the Democrats. That’s what is so frustrating. Our leaders are so damn busy working against each other in an effort to consolidate their power base that no one is focused on doing the right thing.
A democrat Senator told Bush, “I’d like to be helpful on this, but our leaders have made clear that we’re not supposed to cooperate.”
Here’s a telling example. Most citizens are aware that Social Security is in dire trouble. The current projection is for the system to be bankrupted by 2037 (just25 years away folks). When Bush was reelected in 2004 he targeted Social Security reform as one of his key goals. After a significant amount of discussion and research he supported a democrat’s proposal for changes to the system that would increase return on investment and keep the program solvent. He adopted the strategy and championed it, trying to get it passed into law. He and his staff worked the phones, actively and aggressively pushing to get it done as voting time drew near. They were unsuccessful. There was one response to a telephone call that I think is the most telling. A democrat Senator told Bush, “I’d like to be helpful on this, but our leaders have made clear that we’re not supposed to cooperate.”
This statement absolutely blows my mind. It’s hard to fathom an elected official, elected by us to represent us, telling the President of the United States that he can’t vote the way that his heart and his logic dictate because his bosses have told him not to. This makes me so angry that I have a hard time writing about it coherently. Inside I feel like a cartoon character, spitting and sputtering nonsense as I jump up and down and turn red. The fact is that Social Security reform benefits American people of all walks of life. If there is a way to run things that keeps us paying the same amount but makes the money last longer then it’s a no brainer. But our system turns it into a mess. Let’s dig a little bit deeper and see what turns up.
Let’s start by peeling back the obvious. The reform idea came from a democrat. Let that sink in for a second. In fact, let’s play it out in a different scenario. Let’s say that you have figured out a way to save time and money at work and you’ve been trying to convince the boss to go with your suggestion. But then, you find out that the girl on the other aisle that you don’t like is making the same suggestion. All of a sudden you change your tune and begin talking about how it’s a bad idea and that the boss shouldn’t listen to her. It sounds pretty hypocritical doesn’t it? It’s the definition of cutting your nose off to spite your face. You’ve literally prevented the company from saving time and money because you didn’t want the other girl to share the limelight with you. Unfortunately, in the real situation it isn’t about saving time and money. It’s about the prosperity of the American people and our ability to support our older citizens after they’ve spent their entire lives paying into a system that was supposed to help them out when they need it.
Next thought – since when do Senators have bosses? I could have sworn that they were elected by citizens to represent the viewpoint of those same citizens. So why are they listening to some group of people who are not the citizens that elected them. I’ll tell you why. It’s a simple crime known as blackmail and apparently our American political system is founded on it. Here’s the scoop, our elected officials need a couple of things to become elected officials. They need funding and they need the backing of a bloc of voters that will allow them to be taken seriously as candidates. Enter the political parties. Our Republican and Democratic parties already have the voting blocs lined up. All you need is the money to get your name, face and a simple message out and they can get you elected. Guess who can give you the money. Did you guess the same parties? You’d be right. So what happens if you get to Washington and start voting the way that your citizens would approve of instead of doing what the leaders of the party tell you to do? They pull your funding and they choose a new candidate to align their voters with. All of a sudden you’re a candidate without a job, out in the cold, never to be heard from again. Nobody wants to lose their job, especially not one of those jobs in Washington with all of its perks. So when the leaders of the party come calling these elected officials drop their morals, they drop their citizens and they do what their told. Wusses.
And why are these leaders telling them to do things that aren’t best for the citizens that they are supposed to represent? In a word, Power. These leaders don’t give a damn about these citizens. These citizens are nothing but sheep to be manipulated. It doesn’t matter what a political party does that hurts the citizens. They know that they can manipulate the message on Fox News or on CNN or NBC and pull the wool over the eyes of the sheep. So no matter what heinous thing they do they know that this source of power will remain fully intact. The other source of power in Washington is positioning. It’s focused on 3 prime targets: forming a majority in the House, a majority in the Senate and owning the Presidency. That’s all they really care about. Since they can manipulate the public with the news media the only thing that they focus on is how to achieve those three things. As a result, they don’t care if the President is trying to do the right thing, they don’t even care what the right thing is. Instead, they focus on ways to make the people in the other party look bad. They spend their time trying to block the agenda of the other party and making them look bad so that they can point to how bad they look when it’s time for the next election. Bastards
I hope you realize that this message isn’t targeted at one party of another. Both are guilty of the same practices. President Obama is dealing with the same politics from the Republicans now as Bush was from the democrats. Barack Obama may very well be a good man with a good heart trying to do what he thinks is best for the American people. That’s exactly what President Bush was. But I was unable to see that about President Bush until reading Decision Points and I have no doubt that we’re not seeing the truth about Barack Obama at this point either. Unfortunately, because of the spin doctors we won’t ever be able to see the realities that we’re faced with and get the information we need to make good decisions. As a result, the situation propagates itself and the most successful party is the party that spins the best and controls the messaging.
In the end, it’s you and me who pay. We pay financially with our taxes, but even more than that we pay the opportunity cost of partisan politics. We aren’t the nation that we could be. We aren’t the nation that we should be. And we never will be that nation as long as this is the way that things get done in Washington.
Posted on November 26, 2011, in Politics and tagged CNN, Decision Points, Democratic Party (United States), Democrats, Fox News, George W. Bush, Media, Obama, Partisan Politics, Politics, President of the United States, Republicans, Social Security Reform, W, Washington D.C.. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.