Category Archives: Politics

The Last Respectable Man in Washington?

There’s one man in Washington today that I truly feel sorry for, and that’s Colin Powell. He’s been forced to swallow his own pride and convictions in order to be a mouthpiece for an administration that has acted counter to his advice on numerous occasions. He’s been used shamelessly for his credibility and his acceptance among the American public and it’s got to be difficult for him. Colin Powell has proven that he is, if nothing else, a team player. He’s done his best to take one for the team time after time. He is one of the most loyal people in the administration and despite his own personal convictions he has upheld his responsibilities to back the current gang of thugs in the Whitehouse.

Colin Powell is a very smart man. He has a peculiar (and unfortunately rare) combination of intelligence, congeniality, conviction and morality. He’s a man that understands honor and understands the whole concept of “face” that so many people have discarded. He wears an aura of respectability about him wherever he goes. Every time I see him on some program mincing words with yet another talking head my respect grows for him another notch. He’s obviously struggling, trying to justify some recent bit of thuggery, and trying to lend his respectability and credibility to his boss out of nothing but an old-fashioned sense of American loyalty. Bush is a lucky man in the case of Colin Powell. He’s lucky to have the man’s loyalty in a time when cabinet members are deserting in droves to write their own tell-all books, dishing the inside dirt on the inner workings of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. I’m quite sure this was a major factor in his appointment.

I was a machinist mate when I served in the Navy (bear with me a minute, I’m actually going somewhere with this segue). My job entailed working on piping systems, valves, seawater and steam piping, pumps, turbines and other assorted bits of machinery involving the nuclear power plant as well as the secondary system. One of the things that I learned was the concept of a “sacrificial anode”, a piece of metal that we would install in various places that would corrode first. These anodes were basically chunks of zinc or other metals, bolted to various parts of the hull, seawater tanks, piping systems, etc. These metal plates would offset the natural galvanic corrosion in the system, corroding instead of the metal of the hull, tanks or piping. Once they were used up we’d throw them away and bolt in new ones, constantly consuming them to save the rest of the system. The big pieces of machinery, the piping, the tanks, and the pumps were the public face and got all the credit but in reality it was the decidedly unsexy sacrificial anodes that kept the systems from crumbling into ruin.

Colin Powell is Bush’s sacrificial anode. Bush is eating up Powell’s credibility and respectability in order to save his own reputation. As time passes, I feel like I can actually see Powell withering away, slowly being consumed by the constant abuse of his loyalty and respectability. I once used to think Powell would make a damned fine president and I would’ve been proud to vote for him but I am beginning to realize that I probably will never get the chance; Bush will consume him completely, wringing every last drop of loyalty and respect out of the man before discarding him and bolting a new anode onto his political machine. The sad thing about the situation is that the very qualities that make Powell respectable and admirable are the ones that are, in my opinion, leading to his demise. Powell cannot abandon Bush. His own personal code of ethics prevents that. His only hope is for Bush to get canned and thrown out of office before he manages to completely destroy all of his remaining credibility. The catch-22 of the situation is that Powell will probably do everything in his power in order to maintain the very situation that is leading to his own downfall and in reality he can’t act differently. Acting to subvert Bush would be completely counter to his nature, his personality and his personal code of honor.

Only we can help people like Colin Powell. Luckily we have a very powerful weapon at our disposal; we have the ballot box. If you respect and admire Colin Powell, if you worry that his honor is being sacrificed to justify the actions of a man who isn’t worth of the gifts he’s being given then I urge you to take these convictions with you into the voting booth on election day. Let your own conscience, your own sense of fair play and your own personal honor be your guide.

The Gipper

The Gipper is dead. It’s a sad day in the golden age of America that he so fervently believed in. One of my heroes, arguably one of the better presidents to ever grace the oval office, is gone and I can’t help but be sad.

When people find out I’m a registered Republican I’m usually met with a lot of disbelief. Most people who know me well enough to know many of my core beliefs do not believe that I am one and they think I’m pulling their leg. In truth, I’m not the type of Republican that our party represents today. I became politically aware during the Carter/Reagan years and I still identify myself most strongly with the convictions and the beliefs of Reagan.

When I identify myself as a Republican, I’m more accurately a “Reagan Republican” because I believe in America, I believe in freedom, I believe in patriotism and I believe that hard times call for hard choices. I cannot stomach the policies of today’s Republican party though, who seem hell bent on taking away personal freedoms, centralizing and aggregating power and protecting their own self-interests over everything else while shrouding themselves in false patriotism and false morality.

Ronald Reagan was the type of Republican that made me proud to be one also. Yes, Reagan made some bad decisions and I don’t pretend to think everything he did was golden. However, in the balance of things, the good he did in my mind far outweighs the bad . Unlike the Republicans of today who go out of their way to embarrass me or make me ashamed, the Gipper hewed to an ideology of sincerity, compassion, dignity and respect. He was ironwilled in his convictions, yet oh so human in his connections with his fellow man. Reagan was one of the most popular presidents of our time. He’s ranked right up there in the top 10 or 15 presidents ever, depending on which survey you read. That’s pretty impressive, considering the amount of contention around the man and how many people claim to hate him. For the most part, even the people that disagreed with his politics respected him. With his passing, a lot of dignity has gone out of the political scene and we’re poorer for it.

I once got into a discussion, almost an argument, with my Political Science professor over Reagan once. I made the casual offhand remark that Reagan wrote a lot of his own speeches. Professor Wright pounced on me, telling me I was wrong, and basically insinuating that I was crazy for even thinking such a thing let alone stating it. He did not believe me, even when I mentioned a book of his speeches I have called “In His Own Hand” and went on to poke fun at my expense a few times.

Well, much is being made today in the news (both television and print) about Reagan and his prolific speechwriting. Many people have mentioned how he wrote many of his own speeches, how he was a masterful writer and a prolific letter writer. Stories are being circulated about him throwing out or changing speeches at the last minute. I’d like to take a minute here to simply say to my professor, “Hah! In your face!” I hope he’s watching some of these news shows and thinking to himself “Man, I owe Gary an apology” but in reality I doubt if he is. I don’t think I’m quite that memorable.

Many people are aware that the Gipper was known as “The Great Communicator” but they also think he got this nickname just from his talent for public speaking. His ability to be at ease while speaking to millions of people was legendary, but his ability to write clearly and concisely about his thoughts are nothing short of phenomenal. The book of speeches that I have is a fascinating read because you can clearly see how his thoughts developed about policies. The book is basically just a collection of photocopied speeches and essays he wrote, replete with crossouts, corrections and rewordings. Anyone who understands and appreciates the subtle differences in phrasing and word choices can go through and see how words do in fact mean things and can appreciate the true beauty and artistry that can exist in our language when wielded by a master.

President Reagan has left on his next journey. His long sunset is over, but I’d like to think he left behind an America worthy of his legacy. I’d like to see someone in office, be they Democrat or Republican, worthy of inheriting his vision of a “morning in America.” We need a good old fashioned dose of optimism and belief in ourselves, we need the sunny days he so fervently believed in. Mr. President, I’m hoping you’ll look down on us from time to time and put in a good word with the big guy. We’re counting on you.

Goodbye, Mr. President, and thank you.

The Perils of Public Office

I sometimes wonder how successful I would be as a politician. I really have no desire to hold public office and can’t imagine submitting myself to the indecencies of a public campaign but I do often wonder if I’d be able to actually accomplish anything. Of course, in my case I would generally measure success as simply staying alive long enough to serve out my term of office. You see, I’m pretty straight-forward; I’m terribly blunt and direct and I will, in general, tell you exactly how I feel about a particular topic. I’m also prone to actually try to change things and to follow my personal beliefs to the logical conclusion of actually trying to implement them. Unfortunately that sort of behavior is anathema to a successful political career and is liable to get you shot in the process.

We all complain about politics and politicians. In fact, complaining about politicians is one of our national pastimes, ranked right up there with baseball, hotdogs and apple pie. What would America be without a rousing argument about the current schmuck in the Whitehouse and how bad he’s lousing things up? The problem is that for all our complaining, not many of us would be crazy enough to actually try to do the job those guys do.

Now I may be an unabashed Bush basher (wow, nice alliteration) but I do have to admit the man has a thankless job. At least he has the guts to actually go out and take the arrows. That’s far more than most of us are willing to do. Whether you love him or hate him, it’s men like Bush that make this whole system work and if nobody was willing to take the job (and to risk lousing it up as bad as he has, just to keep things in perspective) it would all crumble around our ears.

Aristotle broke down government into 6 different classes, based upon how many people ruled and what form of government they instituted. His classical way of describing the different classifications included a monarchy, an aristocracy and a polity, with each category being split between rule by one and rule by many. Contrary to modern thinking, his preferred form of government was actually a benevolent aristocracy. Our classical democracy would actually be considered a polity, with rule by many. Of course the reality of the situation is that we don’t even come close to a true democracy, but we are closer to it than many other forms of government and we’d be even further from it if nobody had the guts to get up there and submit themselves to the torments of public office. We could easily devolve into a tyranny.

Many other countries like to throw rocks at our government and our politicians. They ridicule our policies, our leaders, our decisions and our direction. Of course, when I look at their politics and their governments I see many things that we do better. For one thing, we don’t throw out our form of government every few years and start from scratch. We work from within the system, trying to tweak things when they are going poorly and using the system to enact these changes. We also don’t turn on our politicians nearly as quickly, nor as viciously. All my joking about getting myself shot aside, we are relatively violence-free (with some notable exceptions) and we vastly prefer ballots to bullets. We don’t need outside poll-watchers to come in and supervise our elections to ensure that they are fair and we try very hard to not fall victim to either a tyranny of the minority nor a tyranny of the majority. All in all, I think our system works for the most part, even if it does sometimes result in bozos like Bush getting into a position of authority. I know I sure as heck wouldn’t trade it for any other form of government out there. Maybe we need something like a national Politician Awareness Day. We could slap bumper stickers saying things like “Have you hugged your congress-critter today?” or “Bush, he’s stupid but he’s ours” on cars and lampposts across town. I bet some of these guys and gals just need a little affirmation and probably get tired of being yelled at constantly. These guys have a really crappy job and, like it or not, I really do think most of them are just trying to do whatever they think the right thing might be.

I know if my kid ever looks at me and says “Dad, when I grow up I want to be President” I’m going to take him down for psychiatric counseling. I’m just glad, though, that there’s someone out there who managed to turn their little kid dreams into reality. I just wish they weren’t quite so dumb.