It was quite a month for Republicans, capped off by an exciting week of indictments and racist remarks. I will not make any assumptions about the Republicans though. That wacky band of political survival experts may well come out of this last month with unscathed. In the area of defense and disaster preparedness, the veil was lifted after hurricane Katrina--a bureaucratic disaster. Iraq was a quagmire that never should have been started. The party of small government has blown a budget surplus while the president has failed to veto a single spending bill. And now in the realm closest to supporters’ hearts--conservative values--true colors seem to be flying.
Enter Tom DeLay, the bulldoggish House Majority Leader credited with increasing the Republican majority in congress. DeLay is no stranger to morals and ethics and not shy to weigh in on contemporary issues. On Teri Schiavo he predicted that "The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today." He assessed the Supreme Court as "an arrogant, out-of-control, unaccountable judiciary." If this sounds a lot like Pat Robertson, I suspect it is because they are receiving the same talking points. But the bell tolled for Mr. DeLay this week when he was indicted on a charge of conspiring to violate Texas campaign finance laws.
Not to be out-done, Bill Bennett, former education czar and author of the "Book of Virtues", claimed--in a hypothetical--that "if you wanted to reduce crime, you could--if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country." Bennett was not getting many "amens" for that one, a statement so imbued with racism it was made flippantly, and can almost be dismissed.
There will be a certain percentage of devout followers who will write-off both of these examples. Mr. DeLay is already calling the charges against him "partisan". He should know when something is “partisan” since he used that tactic to wrest control of the House. There's nothing we can do about the percentage of zealots who will follow Pat Robertson, Tom DeLay, and Bill Bennett down. But maybe the reasonable middle of the country will realize they are following people who themselves can not even run their own lives.
I am under no illusions that leaders, or those in the public spotlight, will be perfect people. But I think those who attempt to tell other people how to run their lives, what to be afraid of, and who to listen to, should be judged with a certain amount of extra scrutiny. What does it say about someone who is elected under the guise of being ethical, when that person is indicted for being unethical? If someone writes a book of virtues, is it worth reading or following if that person has trouble with virtues?
The Republicans are in power because they are the party of small government, strong defense, and traditional values. They are a resounding zero for three in these areas. We have a government that spends out-of-control, refuses to keep itself in check, spends the lives of its soldiers rashly, and wants to tell you who you can sleep with while those very leaders are burdened by moral and ethical problems. What have we gotten for ourselves?
Wouldn't it be better to just leave every one alone if they are not hurting anyone? If I'm terminally ill and I want the right to die, why isn't that acceptable? Who is going to tell me I can't do that? People like Bill Bennett? Who is going to tell you who to be afraid of? Who is going to protect the sanctity of your marriage? Someone like Tom DeLay? I'm not saying Democrats are any better. But at least they do not want to get involved in peoples' personal lives.
I'm not against "values" or even, necessarily, conservative Christian values, but I don't need elected officials to enact my beliefs for me. I don't need to vote for these people or send them money. I don't need to read the "Book of Virtues" to know what is right or wrong; even less now that the author has a well-known gambling problem. But we all have our problems so why believe people who claim to have all the answers? Isn't that an immediate red flag? Where did all this subversive followership come from in what is supposed to be a staunchly independent country? Canada, maybe! But they are making us look like lemmings when it comes to religion and civil rights. I can't figure it out. (that was a joke about Canada. Thank you Canada for your smooth beer, beautiful women, and edgy comedians.)
As I write this the football stadium down the street is filling up with thousands of women for Joyce Meyer's convention. Apparently people are still more than happy to pay good money and gather en-masse to have a complete stranger tell them how to live their lives. It is this same odd energy that Republicans happily tap into for votes, while they themselves--their lack of humility and ethical foundation--run wild. Are we better off because of any of this? Have the ends justified the means? If you are one of the 40% who say "yes" please place you’re offering in my bucket as it is passed down the isle. I'd tap into this but quicker politicians and preachers have already beat me to it.
Here's my answer. I say we ask our leaders to be responsible for less. Let's cut down on unnecessary reach in government. Mr. DeLay, you no longer have to worry about saving someone who has requested the right to die. Please just concentrate on building levees, disaster recovery, national security, health care, and education--areas your fellow Republcains in control have so far failed at miserably. Don't worry about personal issues. Worry about the public ones the average citizen can not fund or control. The next time a politician or author gets up and wants to tell you how to live your life--let's laugh him or her off the stage.