Monday, September 30, 2013

A Pox On All Their Houses

I have always loved the art of politics. But that was back in the days before ego ridden megalomaniacs took over the system. I can remember the good old days when the Speaker of the House and the Minority Leader would greet each other civilly and converse rather than hurling epithets at one another. I can remember when the Majority Leader of the Senate would use his podium to call on Senators to speak by referring to them as "the gentleman from" whatever particular state the one about to speak was from. The leadership did not use the podium to insult and vilify those who stood in loyal opposition. I remember when the United States Senate was considered the worlds greatest deliberative body. When it was actually collegial and members would work for the good of the country.

I can remember when the President of the United States knew that we have a two party system and understood the importance of that system. I never remember hearing a sitting President say,"I will not negotiate". That is, until now. Previous Presidents seemed to understand that negotiation was part of the job description. Many even enjoyed the challenge of bringing disparate views together. But then, our previous Presidents had the real life experience of administration. I remember hearing about the Presidents having Congressional leadership from both parties into the Oval Office just to keep lines of communication open. Sometimes from one party. Sometimes from the other. Sometimes both groups together. They had relationships built on respect and,  perhaps, on a somewhat grudging friendship. In public, while speaking out strongly about disagreements, they did not speak out hatefully. Although on opposite sides, they knew that ultimately cooperation was required or failure would be the result.

I remember when important issues were before the Congress, Presidents would spend long hours in the oval office on the telephone talking and cajoling. Sometimes deals had to be made. I realize that there were times when the dealing got out of control. But still, better dealing and moving forward than making threats and stopping all progress. Once again, previous Presidents realized that cajoler-in-chief was still part of the job description. So they did what was needed rather than getting out of town and letting the events rule themselves.

Those days are gone. At least temporarily. There is no collegiality. There is no negotiation. "My way or the highway" is the approach of record. Then demonize opponents, which are now the enemy, and vilify them in both their public and private lives. Politics has always been hardball. But it was understood that sooner or later the other team comes up to bat. So things were rough but controlled and the battle was kept on the playing field. 

Today, Obamacare presents a huge problem for the country. It is faulty legislation that was poorly thought out and written as an over sized patchwork. In spite of that, it is being forced on the American people. Many of the faults and inadequacies could be repaired if both sides would sit in honest negotiation. But it seems that the leadership cannot or will not make that happen.  The incivility that lights up Washington today reflects a dismal light on all parties so I say, a pox on all their houses.

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