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Strong opinions, weakly held

Our nation has failed

The big political story of the week is that starting in 2003, Vice President Dick Cheney’s office declared that it was not bound by the laws that govern the executive branch, on the basis of … well it doesn’t really matter. They just made something up to justify not complying with the rules they don’t feel should apply to them. Dan Froomkin has written up the whole thing in his White House Watch column.

The truth is, I’m not that interested in Dick Cheney or his shenanigans. We have known for a very long tim that he views the White House, and more importantly, himself, as holding power that must not be checked by other branches of government, the Constitution, or conscience. We know that when he bothers to tell us anything at all, he lies. So there’s really no point in dwelling on him any more.

What does bother me is that in this country we have plenty of systems in place that are supposed to protect us from rogue elements within the government. Start with the fact that Dick Cheney works for the President. The fact of the matter is that President Bush allows Dick Cheney to get away with pissing on the Constitution.

Then there’s the legislative branch. For six years, Republicans chose to ignore the stench emanating from the White House. Fortunately, doing so cost them their majorities in the House and Senate last November. Then there’s the media. Dick Cheney’s office declared its independence from the rules governing the executive branch in 2003 and we’re only hearing about it now. Why? (Insert ten more paragraphs of media criticism here. You can write them yourself.)

Finally, there’s the voters. In 2000, people could claim not to know better when it comes to George W Bush and the people he chooses to employ. What’s the excuse for 2004? Everything we know about Iraq now we knew back then, but the majority of voters opted to reelect the President.

When I look at everything that has gone on, I can’t help but feel a bit pessimistic about 2008.

2 Comments

  1. I understand where you’re coming from with this. It does feel a lot like a failed experiment. I’m actually not convinced that Bush was re-elected in 2004 anymore than he was elected in 2000, but there’s no point in going into that now.

    So why did 2004 turn out the way it did? I think it points the nature of modern political discourse. It comes down to something more like a couple of rappers dissing each other than the Lincoln/Douglas debates. There are no ideas discussed, only coded threats (liberal = tax and spend, welfare queens in Cadillacs, abortion on demand, oral/anal sex instruction in the classroom). Talk radio is all conservative all the time as a result of who owns the stations, not who listens to the stuff and the resulting ratings.

    So what’s to be done?

    There’s no way to make the political classes pay attention, unless the funding problem is solved. As it is now, running a national or statewide campaign costs millions of dollars. An incumbent Senator has to raise thousands of dollars a week for their entire term just to stay in office. Challengers, without the reach and name recognition, must do even more. I think public financing of campaigns and re-vamping how mass media are used is a necessary step.

    TV and radio ads should have a minimum length and a maximum frequency: the ad must deliver a message longer than 10 seconds and can’t appear so often as to numb the voters. I think ad time should be donated to candidates (or deeply discounted) as part of the license grant that broadcasters enjoy. Equalize the playing field in terms of access but require an elevated tone by forcing longer spots. Instead of negative ads, force candidates to talk about their plans and ideas.

    Some ideas, anyway. What do you think?

  2. Maybe we could finally revoke corporations’ “right” to freedom of speech and turn them back into legal constructs?

    That would (hopefully!) severely restrict their access to politicians and perversion of the government by special interests…

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