In civics class, back when I was in sixth grade – I remember this clearly – my teacher told us that in enacting legislation, government officials make choices that will do the greatest good for the largest number of citizens.
Certainly that sounds naïve but remember we are talking about the early 1950s, a more innocent time than now; that the teacher was undoubtedly speaking of the ideal; and at age 11 or 12, I had not yet seen enough to develop the political cynicism I have now.
But the thing is, I still believe – or want to believe – what she told us and each time our leaders fail in that ideal, my heart breaks a little. Alternately, I am enraged.
There is so much said and done in Washington and in state houses by people elected or appointed to serve the interests of the people that does precisely the opposite, it is hard to see the enormity of it – the aggregate assault on us gets lost in the day-to-day details.
So, at the beginning of this year, I started a new file I call “AwfulPoliticians” where I keep short notes with links to news stories of all this stuff. In under five months, it has already passed 20 pages. In no particular order, here are a few of them:
ITEM: In January, FCC Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker voted in favor of the mega-merger between Comcast and NBCUniversal further reducing the number of and limiting the competition among major media companies.
In May, Ms. Baker announced she is leaving the FCC to join – wait for it – Comcast where she will be able to lobby Congress immediately upon taking up her new job this month.
ITEM: In March, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed an executive order requiring random drug tests of state employees and as a pre-hire test for state job applicants.
ITEM: In May, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a bill requiring urine, blood or hair samples for drug tests from applicants to the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, i.e welfare.
What’s so awful about those two items, particularly in our horrible economic climate, is that people in desperate situations do not have the luxury of standing up for their privacy rights. Democracy should not be a luxury.
ITEM: Last week, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky) indicated that he either doesn’t understand the First Amendment or wants to abolish the document he swore to uphold when he took office. He said this on Fox News (emphasis is mine):
“I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders.
“It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.”
ITEM: Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee was incensed to learn that a small church was allowing Muslims to hold worship services when mosques were too small. Said Huckabee on Fox News:
“Should the church be rented out to show adult movies on the weekend?”
Thereby likening one of the world’s largest religions to pornography. Classy.
ITEM: I doubt anyone reading this blog missed the kabuki dance performed last week by Representative Anthony Wiener (D-NY) as he showed up on what appeared to be every TV newscast in America to not deny that he sent a photograph of his crotch to a young college student.
Wiener was one of half a dozen Congresspeople with whom I agree politically much of the time and it just kills me to know that he cannot be trusted. Matt Taibbi of Rolling Stone best expressed my sentiments (emphasis is Taibbi’s):
And about Representative Weiner.
”The truth is, if you’re worth the congressional office at all, your automatic answer to any question about pictures like that has to be, ‘No, that can’t be me in that picture, because I’m a United States Congressman and I don’t take digital pictures of my hard-ons. The fact that Weiner had to hedge his answer at all tells us everything we need to know about that picture.”
[UPDATE: After I finished writing this post on Monday, Wiener held a press conference admitting that he did send the photo the college student.]
ITEM: Of the 242 Congressional Republicans who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, only 14 rejected their government-subsidized health care. In February, ThinkProgress tracked down a few of the 228 who rejected affordable care for the rest of us to ask why they kept their federal health care. Some of the answers (you’re not going to believe these):
“Representative Andy Harris (R-Md) unleashed an infamous tirade at a House Republican retreat and demanded to know why his government-run health plan would be delayed for 28 days after his swearing-in.
“Representative Aaron Schock (R-Il) explained to ThinkProgress that he was only on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program because he was ‘actually lowering’ premiums for older members of Congress.
“Representative Michael Grimm (R-NY) told the New York Daily News (without a hint of irony), ‘What am I, not supposed to have health care?[…] God forbid I get into an accident and I can’t afford the operation. That can happen to anyone.’
“Representative Ann Marie Buerkle (R-NY) was surprised to learn that her health insurance plan was subsidized by the government, but has no plans to turn it down regardless.”
With this kind of idiotic doubletalk, would you want any of these people representing you in Congress? Do they even deserve to be one of the leaders of the United States?
These are just seven of the most – um, colorful – of many dozens of items of bad behavior I’ve collected since mid-January and not even the most dangerous, outrageous or important. But I hope they give a small idea of the low level of intellectual, ethical and undemocratic ideals expressed by our leaders.
Not all of these are related to legislation, but random bad behavior by what are supposed to be trusted leaders feeds the misguided beliefs of the ignorant, uninformed, bigoted and plain stupid among us.
Like, for example, the fans of Sarah Palin who, after Palin rewrote the history of Paul Revere’s ride last week to mesh with her personal politics, tried to rewrite the Wikipedia page on Revere to match Palin’s revisionism.
I despair for anything enlightened, smart or even a little thoughtful from our leaders. George Carlin noted correctly that “Inside every cynic is a disappointed idealist.”
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lyn Burnstine: Thoughts on Writing: In Two Parts