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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Integrity Wanted: Voter in Search of an Activist Politician

Hillary Clinton would be the USA's first woman president; Barack Obama, the first African-American. A declared desire to lead is relegated by the media to the politics of context that potential leaders can't wave off with a turned head and polite "p'shaw". By what means do politicians ink their names on history's pages? Being political pioneers is just the hook, but all the typical trade tools still come into play: running a smart campaign, raising more money and getting the most good press.

What if the way to get elected was to actually show some leadership? I don't care if the president has people who can raise a lot of money. I care if he or she can lead. Leadership is not only an accountability for the actions of those to whom authority is delegated. We also expect a sense of responsibility that would move them to act with wisdom and foresight. Otherwise, we are electing people because we think they deserve a really nice government pension.

The problem is that while the declared candidates are in campaign mode, they tend to play it safe, pandering enough to the party faithful to keep their names forward, and not doing anything that conventional wisdom declares as "politically risky" between now and the primaries.

But all one has to do is to look at the fervor around the move to draft Al Gore to run again to see evidence that even political risk has its rewards. Taking a stand shouldn't be risky if it's something in which you believe. Here is where things can change.

There are a lot of members of Congress in the 2008 prez race. They are lawmakers, not outsiders. If they would take some of those campaign promises to the House or Senate floor, they would be demonstrating that they believe in what they are saying today, and just maybe create some credibility based on action rather than charisma or electability. Why wait until after '08 to start a bill about real universal health care? If it's a critical enough issue to talk about now, it really can't wait until a new president takes office 2 years from now!!!

Those who currently hold no office, like Senator Edwards, can demonstrate their commitment to a healthy, clean and peaceful planet by being more active in those causes.

Health care your thing? Meet with drug manufacturers and the AMA to talk about health care. Find forums to bring America's "medical industrial complex" leaders together with those from countries where universal health care is available. Making a profit is an American right, but that doesn't mean another child has to die because his mother can't afford it.

World Peace your bag? Mediate a conflict. Stage a march. I know that's an oversimplification, but at least you will show a commitment to what you believe.

Anyway, you get the idea. We need leadership NOW. America's President Albatross has become a lame duck. There are no leaders left in the White House. We are starved for real leadership. That's why we changed congress. Please step up and lead. Take a chance that you might stand out. Some of us would appreciate it.

After all, we are the ones who must choose the names this nation's history books will remember, and I want to cast my vote for a person of action. I've had enough promises. Time for you to act.

-PBG

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Bruce Kay: Observations from the Homefront



Dateline: Washington DC Area, Undisclosed Location (Ok, well, 'Scooter' Libby's' old bunker...well, rents are ridiculous in this town)



Ok. Ok. There is a point to this column - recognizing the passing of two brilliant minds (no, of course not from here), those of Art Buchwald & Molly Ivins, perhaps the last two people to make sense out of the American political quagmire.

I have been accused of borrowing heavily from the style of said writers, & will admit, MUCH better talents than I have a debt to these two.

I'm going to continue to "paraphrase" some of the better work of Art & Molly, so, this is my apology, in advance. It's not like anyone bothers when Joe Biden sez anything foolish so why should I? Oh, scratch that.

Column space is running out so let me throw out the Ivin-esque observations I've held back these last few months…

Bill Frist overheard at The Ford funeral: "His condition is serious but stable". Oddly, Frist made the same comment after viewing the video of Saddam's hanging. At least he's consistent, unlike some Presidents I could name...

Bush promoting fuel efficiency? Like Larry Flint selling a catalogue of Burkas. Who else conducts cabinet meetings using the 'Cones of Silence'. At least Maxwell Smart eventually proved 'KAOS' was behind something evil.

But give W credit. His motto, "If at first you don't succeed, redefine success," works for him.

Fairytales are real for some people. E.g. before the last election, W was like Pinocchio, with the voters seeming like Snow White sitting on his face saying "Lie to me!"

And after the election? Voters across the country were saying "The emperor wears no clothes." (Except in my home state of Georgia, where the voters said, "Nice suit!")

With so many candidates running in '08, they strike some people as a bunch of dwarfs, but after all, we're looking to fill some tiny shoes .

Molly Ivins once observed "Texas, is just Mississippi, but w/ better roads." It's apropos of nothing, but I always liked that quote.

And Art Buchwald, well, he proved you can live in France, & still be funny. That's something.

- Bruce Kay Feb/07

I've been trying to come up with a proper tribute to the two influential and special columnists Bruce mentions. Buchwald was a huge influence on me - his was the first column I ever read regularly. Thanks Bruce! (PBG)

Champions and Victors: Outrunning the Predator

The proverbial doom of the lessons of history hang on one essential truth:

Victors are not champions,
nor do the vanquished vanish.

Those who win the day will not remain forever unchallenged. Even a good (sic) ethnic cleansing will not purge an enemy or its agenda from remaining a splinter under the collective political skin of a society. We are destined to be challengers.

Our ancestors subdued all the other animals, and those that they couldn't, they taught us to avoid. That shows how we, as a species, come to terms with the threats of life. We find a balance.

Just because we can run around the planet killing every crocodile and tiger doesn't mean we do. Why? Because it is a waste of energy and resources, and we have learned that the fabric of our social well being will not unravel with an occasional, unfortunate loss to the fangs of hungry carnivores.

When the enemy is us, though, it seems that politicians find it ridiculously easy to treat fellow humans as children in need of harsh discipline. This despite the fact that a power's patronizing way is exactly what they are challenging. There was never any question that we would conquer Iraq, was there? But this so-called "War On Terror" is a farce not because we are not really prepared to fight it, but because it was never possible to win it. You don't kill the alligator; you just avoid the swamp. The morass of global politics has sharp toothed predators that an intelligent leader avoids engaging unless it is necessary to feed, clothe or house them.

Stepping into another theater, that the Democrats won Congress last year does not mean that the Republicans and so called conservatives will go into some sort of hibernation cave. They are stalking, like lionesses in the tall grass. And you know what? I'm lying in the grass as well, because I will not let my leaders turn us into a slow herd.

That is one reason I am so happy to have the quadrennial migration of presidential politics so rich and early. It gives us a chance to really evaluate the leaders and see who will really move the herd forward. The lionesses won't eat us if they can't catch us. How can that be a bad thing?

-PBG

Friday, February 16, 2007

In Search of the Good Parade

They parade before us like a Papal guard, chess pieces strategically aligned to protect a wounded king.

Hidden behind a coffin wall of flag draped flesh, and staring at the gabardine coat tails of faithful party pawns, stubborn defenders, close-minded decriers and the dense decider hold loyalty as closely as Daniel Webster's devil holds a soul. Obedience is the new integrity, regenerated at the king's behest and for his pleasure. What once was action deeply rooted in principle has forsaken the root for the lure of the fruit, glistening with the promise and sweet with the nectar of an implied intimacy with power.

What brings so many who were blessed with thinking brains to be led so astray, that they sacrifice integrity for blind loyalty while others hold tightly to integrity for its own sake?

And when the riders Fleischer or McClellan or Snow are sent out from their ranks, they spout pronouncements that are nothing but empty nonsense, flak for the arrows - pointed and dull alike - that the People's first line of defense, the Press Corps, unleashes from imperfect quivers.

Now a force is assembling to say the things that not enough have said, to act on things that too many have ignored. Some say that it is too early to speak of new leadership, but the times require a loud, national dialogue. Like round-table knights, their voices rise with a long absent commitment to noble goals: Peace, Health, Security and Prosperity. I applaud them all and encourage their challenges to the failing status quo.

But for their march, our duty is required. We must hold tightly to the tail of the banner those who would be king would hoist, and guide them to raise the flag on a pyramid of progress, not on a turret of power.

If we stand rooted in our progressive principles, let our potential leaders know that we hold them on an unflinching leash, then maybe this time they will be accountable. Maybe this time, when we call them on their integrity, they will act.

-PBG

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Get Off the Surge; Go Off On the Contractors

Posturing is not governing. It's like a farmer wearing an expensive Italian suit to plant potatoes - you can only stand there looking good for so long before your customers wonder why you aren't bending down and getting dirty so you can fill their orders.

Look, I'm all for Congress resolutely standing against the President's surge (ewww), but let's move on. America's tragic policy in Iraq deserves all the attention and light Congress can shed on it, but there's no need to bulldog what everyone already knows: the country is opposed to the Surge.

The President has just asked for a lot more money to pay for his failed policy, and promises that he'll ask for even more next year. The problem is, all this vocal opposition to the Surge has put those of us against the war in a difficult position. We cannot hold off funding the troops and come out smelling good in the long run, regardless of the probable failure of the "new way forward". If we want to attack the White House's funding proposal we have to start questioning where the money is going, and get off of, sadly, who it's killing.

More waste from contractors like Parsons, Haliburton and KBR has come to light in the last week. The report from the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction cites numerous abuses of our money; that is what we should question. It is the one thing we actually can do something about.

We can talk about resolutions against Bush, but in the end, his word is the dragon's breath that sends brave young men and women into danger. The various Congressional resolutions are not only non-binding, they are non-gagging too. We can't keep him or Cheney from talking (ahh to dream) and that makes this principled stand little more than a thin ribbon of raffia on a pole in a hurricane.

Let's focus our attention on the contractors. Let's start that immediately, and make it part of the congressional budget hearings. Let's not appropriate funds for inappropriate work. The real way to get to the administration is to bite the hand that feeds it: big special interest contractors. A well reasoned confrontation on this front will put the administration back on the defensive in a way that will keep them from being able to claim that we are "emboldening the enemy".

Besides, it's the right way to deliver the potatoes.

-PBG

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Driving America Into the Ground

"Let's see how long it takes for the Democrats to drive America into the ground," she said, and she said it viscerally, with an angry passion usually reserved for Hitler, the KKK or an ex-spouse.

Her biting comment was sparked by friend and frequent PnT contributor Bruce Kay, who had purposely worn a vintage Humphrey-Muskie button as a friendly jab to a Republican tennis teammate on his birthday. It was during a casual dinner with friends who have very little in common socially other than we all play on the same tennis team. Because of that, it was not surprising that no one engaged her or that she did not continue with her vitriol.

Our tennis team, you see, is a microcosm of our divided country (although being in Georgia, there are more Republicans than Democrats), and we are all hyper-aware of that. A response of any measure, therefore, might have "ruined" the evening, according to Americans' standard rules of socially acceptable engagement.

Regardless of the awkward circumstances, her remark was an eye opening moment for me. I mean, I know I'm not alone in thinking that the Republicans have spent at least the last six years "running the country into the ground". Aren't the missed 9/11 warnings, the fiasco in Iraq and the abandoning of New Orleans evidence of the Republicans' tragic mismanagement of our citizens' welfare?

One may conclude that this two party finger pointing could mean that both are right, that the agendas of both parties are ruining the country. But as pathetically attractive as that notion is, there are a lot of reasons to believe that is not true.

With forums like this weblog and other socially appropriate places to broadcast our opinions, all one has to do is watch the talking heads on C-Span and the Sunday news shows to know that we are being heard. We form the opinions that are echoed by our policy makers in Washington. Despite the attempts of the corporate-run media to classify issues as Democratic or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, there is consensus in the Congress of the United States. It is the mortar of practicality upon which our divided house stands.

Issues like minimum wage and the "Surge" have crossed the proverbial aisle and have strong proponents in both parties. The only difference is that the last Congress would not have dared to bring these debates to the floor for fear of offending their contributors or confronting their president. In an effort to appear united, Republicans in the last Congress, with a few notable exceptions, avoided anything that resembled independent thinking.

So the next time someone tells you that your favorite political party is driving the country into the ground, remind them that more than any other time in recent history, they have the ear of Congress. Because of that, our representatives have the potential to reach consensus now more than they ever have before, and we can be truly represented, and that is great for America.

-PBG