Help Wanted: Seeking the Washingtons and Jeffersons of Today
“Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right, from the frame of their nature, to knowledge, as their great Creator, who does nothing in vain, has given them understandings, and a desire to know; but besides this, they have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge; I mean, of the characters and conduct of their rulers.” - John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
This week I had a discussion with a new friend about politics and the state of our nation. I was commenting on the corruption so rampant in government and he replied that we can no longer expect politicians to have integrity, and must be content to pick between the least corrupt of the candidates, or the ones that will direct the fruits of that corruption towards us.
Such cynicism is certainly understandable; just look at the politicians of our day. Bill Clinton’s legacy will forever be linked to a stained blue dress and what the definition of “is” is. Al Gore is a billionaire, becoming the false-prophet of fear mongering with the junk science of global warming (or “climate change” as it is now called). Charlie Rangel, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, the most powerful committee chair in government which controls tax policy, is under investigation for tax fraud. Our Treasury Secretary is an admitted tax cheat, and many in Obama’s cabinet and senior staff have also had tax troubles. Ted Kennedy was a notorious drunk and a womanizer.
The list keeps going though. Connecticut Attorney General Dick Blumenthal is running for a Senate seat and was forced to admit that he had lied repeatedly about serving in Vietnam and being captain of the Harvard swim team. In true political doublespeak, Blumenthal writes it off as a few “misspoken words” that should not mar his long record of service. In other words, I am a liar but that should not be held against me because of some other good things I did.
Then we have “Countrywide Chris” Dodd (accepting mortgage favors for political favors), William “Cold Cash” Jefferson (hiding $100k or bribery cash in his freezer), Barney Frank (allowing a gay brothel to be run out of his home), James McGreevey (NJ Governor hired gay lover to work in his office), Elliot Spitzer (hiring prostitutes), John Murtha (pork king, implicated in Abscam sting by FBI), Gerry Studds (having sex with teenage male page), Alcee Hastings (impeached and removed as federal judge for bribery, but later elected as a House representative from FL), James Traficant (accepting bribes and kickbacks)…I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Republicans are not without blood on their hands either. They have Mark Foley (sending sexual messages to interns), Bernie Kerik (adultery, hiring an illegal immigrant), Larry Craig (solicitation, lewd conduct), Duke Cunningham (bribes and kickbacks), David Vitter (hiring prostitutes), Ted Stevens (charged with corruption but later acquitted), Mark Sanford (adultery), Rudy Giuliani (adultery) and Newt Gingrich (adultery). The only saving grace for the Republicans seems to be that, in general, Republicans have the decency to resign when exposed (or be forced out if they refuse to resign), whereas Democrats tend to circle the wagons, re-elect and promote.
If my friend’s assertion is true, that we must accept having to elect the least corrupt of the candidates, then the last few grains of sands in the hourglass of our republic’s life are about to pass, and with it the freedom that made this the most unique experiment of any government institution in history. However, recent events at the ballot office are giving me renewed hope.
Big government Democrats are resigning rather than face angry voters (Chris Dodd, Bart Stupak, Byron Dorgan, David Obey, Eric Massa, Bill Ritter), being defeated or facing defeat in the primaries (Alan Mollohan, Arlen “The Defecter” Specter defeated and Blanche Lincoln is facing the possibility of defeat), or are incumbents facing very difficult general election races (Boxer, Snyder, Markey, Ellsworth, Moore, Melancon, Driehaus, Gordon). Republican Bill Bennett has lost, and John McCain is facing a primary defeat against J.D. Hayworth. The GOP establishment candidate in Kentucky lost to TEA Party favorite Rand Paul.
It would seem that the American people are finally waking up and realizing that when we elect corrupt, big-government politicians, we get a great big, corrupt government. Citizens are seeing the damage done to this country and are finally reading the Constitution and becoming involved. They are showing up at rallies and town hall meetings. They are asking hard questions of politicians, questions that needed to be asked long ago.
America is the greatest, freest nation the world has ever known. We need better than what we have gotten, but we have gotten what we deserve. We have been apathetic and complacent when it comes to government, enticed by flattering politicians saying what they need to in order to be re-elected, who then go back to playing the same old game.
Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, Henry, Franklin, Hamilton, Mason, Paine…these were men of tremendous integrity, who sacrificed mightily while pledging their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor in defense of their fledgling nation. These were men who stood for liberty when, if the revolution failed, they would be tried for treason and killed in painful and ignoble ways. Many of the Founding Fathers suffered life-long health problems from the effects of their sacrifices.
And what did they ask in return? Very little. Washington was pleaded with to accept the title of king, but he declined. He served two terms as president, both with unanimous votes, before returning home to Mount Vernon. John Adams served one term and Jefferson two terms before returning to their homes. There were no riches to be made from speaking fees after serving, no book deals. Serving was a sacrifice.
Where, in either party, are the Washingtons, the Jeffersons, the Adamses and Madisons of today? If we are to remain a free people, unshackled from the burdens of crushing debt and meddling regulations, we had better find them, get them in office and support them. Otherwise this shining city on a hill will become dim, foreclosed upon, and crumbling like the great empires of the past.