Thursday, March 22, 2007

Telling the Truth

If you are an American who wants to be able to respect and trust your government, you have to be pretty depressed lately. I refer, of course, to the disgusting mess over the firing of eight US Attorneys and the subsequent urinary olympiad between Congress and the President over the investigation thereof.

I'm appalled at the attitudes of both sides, but particularly that of the President. The latest movement in this ridiculous kabuki dance is Mr Bush's offer of "cooperation" by allowing Karl Rove and Harriet Miers to "discuss" the firings with Congressional investigators, but in private, not under oath and without any written record being kept. His view seems to be that these are saintly people with nothing to hide who will so obviously tell the truth that it's ridiculous even to think one might need to place them under oath or record their testimony.

Where I come from, this is what we call baloney.

American history offers an instructive lesson. Tomorrow is the birthday of Grover Cleveland, the only man ever to be elected president for two nonconsecutive terms. Cleveland was known as a hardworking man of complete honesty and integrity, and when the fact that he had fathered a child out of wedlock came out during his first presidential campaign he didn't try to spin or bury the story. His guidance to his campaign workers was clear and simple: tell the truth. They did, and the story quickly disappeared from the newspapers.

Unfortunately, Mr Bush seems unable to take a page from Mr Cleveland's book. He seems not to realize that by dodging and weaving and insisting on executive privilige without saying the words (which, of course, conjure up the unwanted ghost of Richard Nixon), he continues to give the appearance of a man with something to hide. Of course, the Democrats aren't blameless here - they studied well during the years of Republican rule and are now well able to flex their muscles and use their majority status to make political life as miserable for the Republicans as the Republicans made it for them. The only difference is that the howls about partisanship and complaints about cheap political shots are coming from the other side of the aisle.

Tell the truth. Let Mr Rove and Ms Miers stand up in front of Congress, raise their right hands, take an oath, and promise to tell the truth. Shine a little sun into the dark and cobwebby corners of the administration. Show that there's nothing to hide. Political die-hards will spin the story no matter what happens, but Mr Bush will have claimed the moral high ground and shown himself to be above cheap politics...something he thus far appears unable to do.

We may never know the full story of why the eight US Attorneys were really fired, but at this point it doesn't matter any more. It's important only because it has set up yet another opportunity for Republicans and Democrats to trade cheap shots instead of concentrating on the critical business of the nation. The Gulf Coast still needs rebuilding, the Alternative Minimum Tax still threatens the middle class, war still rages in Iraq, and dozens of other problems need Congressional attention.

Unfortunately, these are hard problems. Political bickering and sound bites are easy.

Remember all this when you cast your vote in 2008. Assuming, of course, you manage to find someone worth voting for by then.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


No comments: