Warm Southern Breeze

"… there is no such thing as nothing."

Congress’ 7 Deadly Sins

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Thursday, January 28, 2010

The general sense of discontent with the Obama administration seems to be a hangover from his predecessor’s days.

I must confess some sense of dissatisfaction as well, at the pace with which I perceive his campaign promises have yet to be fulfilled. I bear in mind also, that perception is often believed as reality.

And yet, in some regard I can appreciate his well-spoken and even-keeled tenor – one his most remarkable attributes –  a striking dissimilarity from George W. Bush, whose bull-in-the-china-shop, motion-picture-cowboy style bravado, and malapropisms were his greatest hallmarks. Historians may yet demonstrate, and many pundits hold that Vice President Richard “Dick” Cheney was Bush’s “man behind the curtain,” originating and masterminding many of that administration’s most hated policies, including torture of prisoners of war, whom were called “illegal combatants” to justify such inhumane treatment.

Previous administrations aside, one of the continuing gripes Americans have is with their “do nothing” congress(es).

There are numerous problems in Washington, not the least of which is the almost pervasive sense of disconnection with the American public whom they purport to serve. I use “purport” because for all the years of service that many in Congress have, they seem to hold their office as one of privilege, rather than one of service. By so doing, as President Obama mentioned in his Constitutionally mandated State of the Union address, “what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win.  Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can.  The confirmation of [– (applause) –] I’m speaking to both parties now.  The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators.”

Two days earlier, in an interview with Diane Sawyer of ABC News, he said, “there’s a tendency in Washington to think that our job description of elected officials is to get re-elected. That’s not our job description. Our job description is to solve problems and to help people. And, you know, that’s not just the view of elected officials themselves. That’s also the filter through which the media reads things.”

And yet, the President acknowledged that he is not a Lone Ranger, or a Mighty Mouse “come to save the day,” and called upon the American people to assist him – as well we should, and is our responsibility – to govern ourselves.

In context, in his State of the Union address, he made the following observation, remarking about the same: “Unfortunately, too many of our citizens have lost faith that our biggest institutions -– our corporations, our media, and, yes, our government –- still reflect these same values.  Each of these institutions are full of honorable men and women doing important work that helps our country prosper.  But each time a CEO rewards himself for failure, or a banker puts the rest of us at risk for his own selfish gain, people’s doubts grow.  Each time lobbyists game the system or politicians tear each other down instead of lifting this country up, we lose faith.  The more that TV pundits reduce serious debates to silly arguments, big issues into sound bites, our citizens turn away.

“No wonder there’s so much cynicism out there.  No wonder there’s so much disappointment.

“I campaigned on the promise of change –- change we can believe in, the slogan went.  And right now, I know there are many Americans who aren’t sure if they still believe we can change –- or that I can deliver it.

“But remember this –- I never suggested that change would be easy, or that I could do it alone.  Democracy in a nation of 300 million people can be noisy and messy and complicated.  And when you try to do big things and make big changes, it stirs passions and controversy.  That’s just how it is.

“Those of us in public office can respond to this reality by playing it safe and avoid telling hard truths and pointing fingers.  We can do what’s necessary to keep our poll numbers high, and get through the next election instead of doing what’s best for the next generation.

“But I also know this:  If people had made that decision 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, or 200 years ago, we wouldn’t be here tonight.  The only reason we are here is because generations of Americans were unafraid to do what was hard; to do what was needed even when success was uncertain; to do what it took to keep the dream of this nation alive for their children and their grandchildren.”

His observations are spot-on. Cynicism is rampant. Elected officials play it safe to keep their poll numbers high. CEOs reward themselves for failure. Bankers selfishly gain at the detriment of others. Our nation’s laws allow, even encourage timidity, reward avarice, and scorn righteousness.

Perhaps what seems to increase frustration is, that while President Obama HAS accomplished some things – we don’t seem to be hearing about them. And yet, while his style of governance and public persona are decidedly different from his predecessor – which I think is a welcome relief – I yearn for more news of what he and his administration are doing.

And, I support term limitations for members of Congress.

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