Being involved in politics and media most of my adult life, watching the Sunday talk shows has been a normal part of my environment. “Meet The Press,” “Face The Nation” and others were Sunday staples at our house before some of the current hosts were born.
The time of watching opposing politicians commenting weekly on current issues with comity, congeniality and give-and-take is over. The present crop simply presents a “locked-in” position on any subject … any subject … creating an atmosphere of intemperance, gridlock, self-serving quotes and a tinge of anger if disagreed with.
Comity, congeniality, give-and-take are not in them. Nor, in far too many instances, are good sense, well-thought out positions, optimism that our problems can be solved or that compromise and cooperation are ready and useful tools.
I find this in voices of both parties but the current crop of Republicans seems more often to fit these descriptions. Especially Sen. Minority Leader McConnell and House Speaker-In-Waiting Boehner. They’re right there at the top in leadership with threats, name calling and intransigence.
But, to me, the worst of Sunday’s crop is a man I used to admire: John McCain. Who couldn’t admire his life’s accomplishments and military record? In his first couple of terms, who couldn’t admire a feisty, often go-it-alone, swimming upstream attitude that helped him achieve some large victories while still relatively junior in Senate ranks? There was a time he deserved the attention he was getting from the media. And his regular rotation on the Sunday talk shows.
No more! His current appearances are more reasons to quit viewing.
After declaring his candidacy for president in 2008, the uphill swimmer disappeared. In his place came a shill; a man who has been on all sides of many major issues … social, political and economic. Pick one. Abortion, Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, immigration, foreign aid, get-in-get-out of Iraq/Afghanistan and more. If you’ve got a vote but a different opinion on a given issue, just tell McCain and he’ll likely side with you. Whatever side that may be and despite whatever he may have said to the contrary yesterday. Or will tomorrow.
In political circles, one who is on all sides of an issue is called a whore. Tough word. Strong word. But tough and strong too, are issues of abortion, Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell, immigration and the rest. Millions of lives are directly affected by how our leaders deal with these controversial and oft-times inflammatory subjects. When you are a constituency seeking help from a decision maker, you are betrayed and your work is in vain when that person bobbles his head this way and that, testing imaginary winds to see where safety lies. Then tomorrow, going the other way.
McCain is just one of many congressional reasons why I’m beginning to fear for our country’s future. McConnell and Boehner are two. Add Reps. Issa, Bachmann, Gomhert, Barton and a couple of dozen more in the House. I’ll even throw in Pelosi and Reid for the Democrats.
The problem-solving that MUST take place in the next two-years is immense. The issue of national debt alone will require the wisdom of a carload of political and economic Solomons. We have overwhelming nuts-and-bolts work to do, a Mt. Everest of debt that’s beginning to undermine our currency, our economy, our nation’s social structure and which … left unchecked for those two years … could well make us a debtor nation. And a third class nation.
If McCain, McConnell, Boehner, the other above named individuals and their ilk spend the next 24 months blocking anyone else’s attempts to solve our problems but theirs … if they spend their time and resources chasing social issues, birth certificates and ill-conceived efforts to amend our Constitution … if they follow no other counsel but their own … if they do not take drastic actions, some that fly in the face of their current pronouncements … if all or most of this happens, we have reason to fear for our country’s future. And our own.
I am not, by nature, an optimist or a pessimist. My outlook tends to swing back and forth depending on what life’s lessons learned so far have taught me. But, as I watch McCain’s “any-position-on-any-issue” attitude, as I hear elected members of Congress talk like spoiled children, as new threats are made to waste more of our vanishing national treasure on witch hunting and “getting even,” as I learn that 46% of Americans don’t know which party will run the House starting in 2011, as evidence shows issues that must be solved will be relegated to lesser importance while we deal with ideology … well, I begin to remember that a pessimist is simply an optimist with experience.
Where the Sunday talk shows were enlightening and politically educational 10-20 years ago, today they are chilling reminders of how much needs to be done immediately. And how divided this nation really is. I don’t need the networks to tell me so every seven days.