FEDERAL TRIANGLE: American Dreams
When friends come to Washington, I give them a tour of the city, reminding them there are three pursuits here: tourism, government, and government watching.
A 1998 poll by The Washington Post revealed that 33% of all Americans do not trust their governments. Some citizens retain Jeffersonian views that to make our Republic work in a healthy manner, people must always be questioning government. Citizens understand that they are betrayed when they send representatives to Congress who never "come home."
Why do these elected people from "there" come "here" and stay? What happens to them, and why do they become estranged from their roots? Why do political candidates run against Washington, as George Nethercutt (R-Wash.) did to unseat Tom Foley with a promise to stay only six years, then break his pledge? My view is that politicians are not honest. I do not believe it is possible to be reelected to these offices and be honest.
The late Nebraska Senator Ed Zorinsky was reported to be a master at persuading constituents that he did not like Washington, but privately noted°° "this is the best job I ever had in my life." He died in office. When you ask why people run against Washington, the answer is that it works. However, if you keep up the practice after election, you cannot be effective with your new elected coworkers and their staffs, who are here to play within rules of the political game. People, according to columnist Mark Shields, see Members as "the ethical eunuchs and moral lepers" they become by choice.
But mind you, being a Member is a great job. In what other occupation can you speak outrageous but obsequious lies and have it tolerated; remember the ads "may I have more arsenic in my water" or "more salmonella on my hamburger, please?" Further, you are never required to answer a question directly or honestly name a piece of legislation to reflect its true intent or show character by sticking by what you said yesterday; politicians are most successful when they say mealy-mouth things. Who can respect that? Where else can you see a job site (Congressional District) reconfigured to keep you in power and keep the other fellows out? In what other line of work can you get 100% of your salary as pension-for-life after five years in a job that pays five times (plus perks) what average citizens make. It is an even better deal now.
Regardless of the state where you reside, you need to do something that halts this exercise toward national ruin. There is no need for a "McCain-Feingold" law of the land that is yet another "feel good" and has nothing to do with real problems. The real problem is us. Senator McCain is a nice fellow trying to draw attention to the real issue that politicians are purchased. They are, but do not let your elected politicians escape scrutiny. The erroneous perception held by three quarters of the public is that the other congressman is an idiot, but mine is a great guy.
The reason to mention this matter is the cost of not paying attention affects you personally. Your lives are changed by these politicians. As Bob Dole asked, "where is the outrage?" Are the people so dull as to accept this travesty, this description of their past and future? America exists for all of us and it takes work to maintain. We are still the hope of the world and you, personally, must help keep that hope alive.