dirty rag

US Politics - Reciprocal Accusations of Presumptuous Pride - Winfield Patterson

"If you want "ugly hubris," Mr. Patterson, go read your article again, watch what is going on in our capital, and try to convince me I am wrong."

-- Jon Ida from "Ugly Hubris?"

Dear Jon,

I got your email last week, and saw your response in "The Rag". "Convince you you're wrong?" I wouldn't dream of attempting such a feat, since you and I both know it can't be done. But for the sake of posterity, and to settle my own mind, I will counter your response.

For the most part, I agree with you. Where we disagree is a matter of taste, timing, and viewpoint. You are, however, badly and embarrassingly wrong on some facts. But more importantly, you miss the point of my article. I wrote in response to people who claimed that "Al Gore [was] bulletproof", that he would be back in 2004, and that he is still the leader of his party. He is not. He is out of power, out of Washington, and out of influence. He is now retired -- thus, he's gone "someplace warm". I'm sorry you didn't understand that.

1. Bush and Gore are not both career politicians. Gore has been a politician for more than twenty years. Bush has held political office for six. One could not have watched the campaign with any attention at all and drawn the conclusion that they were both "career" politicians. Bush has run a company.

2. "More similar than they are different"? Huh? In what way? They had different biographies, and different agendas, and different ideas, but other than that they were both upright bipeds who descended from apes, have opposable digits and use tools, buuuuuuuuut. . . There are major philosophical differences between Dems and Republicans. Democrats use government programs to ensure a certain percentage of the public is dependent upon democratic/government programs, thus guaranteeing democratic votes. Republicans believe that people should generally be responsible for themselves, and that the bulk of governing should be done by the states. This single philosophical difference between parties accounts for a good deal of the partisan rancor you seem determined to pin on me.

3. Clinton was a successful president, and the Republican Congress spoiled it? Ummmmmmmm. Sorta. I agree with you that he should never have been impeached. There. I said it. I break with my party on that issue. But that statement requires a history lesson.

Clinton was one of the least successful presidents in history, and not because the Republicans kept him from being successful. He did it to himself. In his first two years, Clinton moved so far to the left that he alienated the very people who voted for him -- so much so, that the voters handed him a Republican Congress in '94. That election year saw the single greatest defeat of a Party since the Depression. Republicans defeated Democrats in districts they hadn't won, even with Reagan in the White House, since the '20's.

At this point, the Republicans could have done one of two things: first, they could have decided to use their power to push the president back to the center -- which they did; and second, they could use their power to try and impede any initiatives the president set forward in the most partisan ways possible -- through investigations, impeachment, and moral outrage. (They did that, too, and I suspect that this tactic is what you are referring to in your article. I'd like to state here that I agree with you -- it was ugly, and wrong to do so.)

But think about the Clinton Presidency a minute -- what successes did he have? A balanced budget? That didn't come until the Republican Congress put it in the Contract With America, and held Clinton's feet to the fire in order to get it passed. Welfare Reform? That was a Republican bill that had languished for years under the Democratic Congress, and Clinton signed in '96 in order to get re-elected -- and it worked. Foreign policy? Did Clinton have a clear, concise foreign policy? If so, please explain it to me. I tried to understand it for eight years, and it didn't seem to have any consistency at all. Yeah, we had a great economy under Clinton, but the governmental factors that fed into that success were the balanced budget, (a Republican issue, which allowed Greenspan to lower interest rates), and the unprecedentedly cheap foreign oil coming out of OPEC's inability to lash down production rates. (Incidentally, that's why we're headed for recession now. Every time oil prices triple in under a year and hold, the economy heads south).

Clinton lost Congress because he tried to nationalize one seventh of the economy under his Health Care Plan. You, as a medical student Jon, should be very glad he didn't succeed. Otherwise, you'd spend the rest of your professional career as a federal employee, making federal wages (regardless of your talent) keeping federal hours and dealing with federal bureaucracy. Clinton failed, and it's a good thing he did.

But Congress did impeach Clinton, and in some ways, he deserved it. 1. He lied to Congress. 2. He lied to a jury. 3. He treated his office, and the people who elected him, with the utmost contempt. You're right: his sex life should be a private affair, and none of my business. . . unless you start boning 23 year old interns in the Oval Office, getting blow jobs at your desk WHILE CONDUCTING OFFICIAL BUSINESS ON THE PHONE WITH CAPITOL HILL.

At that point, an investigation is absolutely necessary, if for no other reason than to make sure that the President didn't engage in sexual harassment. At that point, it's no longer private. At that point, Mr. Clinton merged his private life with his official life. At that point, Mr. Clinton violated even the most basic rules of conduct in the workplace. That a significant portion of the House decided that he should be fired like any other employee who couldn't keep his pants zipped should come as no surprise.

And that's what you need to keep in mind, Jon. Bill Clinton was our employee. Civil Servant #1. Are you proud of him?

4. But the bulk of your article seems to take issue with my tone. You think my article was "ridiculous" and you make a very shaky argument that articles like mine attribute to the rancor in Washington.

You don't like my tone? Tough shit.

At last count, I think I had a total of a hundred hits on my articles at The Rag. And most of them are from me, or from my friends. Partisanship was the rule of the day long before I got here. "IT", as you define and refer to partisan rancor, is supposedly the belief that it's more important who is in charge than it is that problems are solved. But that assumes that problems are solved the same way, or that one party doesn't have designs on taking more and more power into the federal government and away from individuals. You assume that the parties are interchangeable. Since I don't believe that governmental programs adequately solve problems, I am partisan. And when a prick like Gore loses, I gloat. Deal.

I would also point you to our president for a lesson in bipartisanship, and defusing emotionally charged situations. Did you know that Gore's staff trashed the White House before they left? They ripped the 'W' keys of the computer keyboards (which is kind of funny), they cut phone lines (which just isn't funny at all), glued shut the file cabinets and door locks, scrawled "Bush licker" on the White House hallways in permanent marker, overturned office furniture, replaced voicemail messages with scatological references, and loaded the laser printer paper tray with pornography. The destruction was so bad that Tipper felt compelled to call Mrs. Cheney and apologize for the state of her husband's former office. This is the measure of Democratic maturity. This is the measure of Gore's maturity.

Despite the mess, Dubya has let it slide. He's not on a public crusade to hunt down the responsible parties, drag them into court and force them to pay for it. That will be done with our tax money. And the Gore people knew that when they trashed the office. They're not even in power anymore, and they just can't stop wasting your money in the most contemptuous ways possible.

My comparison of Gore to Nixon is deeper than you think. It has been said of Richard Nixon that "He was a rat, who kept trying to climb back onto the sinking ship". I cannot think of a better way to describe Al Gore. He rescinded his concession, he sent 150 lawyers into Florida to do his dirty work, and he blamed the Republicans for "dragging out the whole process". Gore's attorneys were banned from the recount in one county when one of them tried to abscond with a stack of ballots counted for Bush -- which seems more Nixon-like than any other act in modern history. During the investigation into Gore's fundraising coffees, Gore claimed he had done nothing illegal because there was "no controlling legal authority" governing his actions as Vice President. ("No controlling legal authority" sounds suspiciously to me like "I AM ABOVE THE LAW").

Gore will go someplace warm. As you say, no shit. My point was and is that he will never be a political force again. He's retired into teaching, just like I said he would -- without ever earning a graduate degree, mind you -- and he will play lots of golf.

I have no delusions, Jon, that I've changed your mind or convinced you you're wrong. I know better. But hopefully, I've convinced you that if you're going to argue with me, you better come at me waving more than a distaste for my writing style and a shaky supposition about partisan rancor. You better have some facts.