Honest Politician, the Oxymoron

After reading blogs from my friends like this and the comments on this one, I start thinking about politics. Of course nothing polarizes a room quite like a political discussion.

Why does it have to be that way? Why do we have to be so bent on our own ideological views that we can’t even be civil? Is it that hard to have an honest discussion of the issues, where — gasp! — we might even admit when we’re wrong?

Time recently did an article on President George W. Bush, “The Love Him, Hate Him President” (of course you need a subscription to Time or the willingness to actually pay for it to read it online). The piece covers this polarization of American politics pretty well.

Maybe I’m just naive, but is it that hard to be honestly critical? I’m not a big fan of Bush, but I’ll acknowledge he’s done some great things. He’s offered amazing leadership after 9/11. His package of tax cuts seems to be jump starting the economy. He helped get a prescription drug benefit for seniors.

Those are all good things, but let’s be honest. The unilateral approach and lack of a follow-through plan have really hindered Iraq. While I applaud Bush’s efforts to consistently root out terrorism, a lot of his actions aren’t helping the problem.

While his tax cuts may be helping the economy (not being an economic expert I’m not sure how much credit Bush can claim, and being unemployed I’m not sure how healthy the economy really is), I can’t help but wonder about the nation’s ballooning debt. Sure, fighting terrorism is worth some debt, but that’s not the only cause. Are tax cuts really worth it when we just end up paying for debt in the long run?

A drug benefit for seniors is great (again, I don’t know how much credit Bush gets for this — it seems more like Congress did the legwork), but again I wonder about the cost and why they didn’t fight to lower drug prices. The way I understand it, the bill abandoned a provision that would allow the Federal government to use its massive buying power to lower the drug prices. I don’t understand why we’d abandon that.

Every one of these issues is not a cut and dry issue, and I wish we’d acknowledge that. I wish a politician would forget about the bumper sticker slogan and admit that while the Medicare bill is a start, it falls short. Or what about the Energy bill that’s bloated with add-on expenses to buy votes? It’s multiple times more expensive than what Bush asked for, but you don’t see him rolling it back and urging Congress to pass the original vision.

That’s the problem today. We’re all a bunch of Michael Moores and Ann Coulters. You call my guy a jerk so you must be a jerk! Mud-slinging at its finest. And through it all we can never rise above to have anything close to a clear discussion of the issues.

Maybe that’s just my overly idealistic vision of what politics could be. I guess by its very nature it won’t happen. Bah. And we wonder why voter turnout is so lame.

3 thoughts on “Honest Politician, the Oxymoron”

  1. I love having political discussions. I have some friends who have extreme difficulty separating political opinions from the friendship itself though. Though I often disagree with you politically, Kevin, I do respect and admire you for putting in thought. I’d rather hold company with a thoughtful democrat than an unthinking republican anyday. (Many days I’d rather hold company with a thoughtful democrat than a thoughtful republican…we sharpen each other). Anyhoo…I agree that politics is never all good or all bad. I guess that’s what you get when the country is run by a bunch of people with different beliefs and different agendas – you get seriously watered down lawmaking. That’s just part of the beast.

  2. The reason I never talk politics on my blog is because I have gotten my fill on the forums I post at. I enjoy the dialogue I have with thoughtful people on both sides of the issue, but the stupid vitriol I mention makes it not worth it anymore for me (Bush=moron, Dems=cowards).

    And we need more thoughtful people than Coulter and Moore. People complain about the debt the govt. is running right now, and then celebrate the huge amount of money this new prescription plan is spending. Not enough good thought goes into this stuff, and I’m sick of all the mudslinging: it’s made me stop watching the news, etc: it’s got me that disgusted.

  3. Kevin,

    recall macro-economics. Presidents can influence the economy in two ways:

    (1) doing something stupid, ie starting a war, taking bribes etc – this generally has immediate effect on consumer confidence

    (2) doing something intelligent, ie slashing taxes, eliminating redundant buracracy, spending government money. This effect is usually much longer term – some economists thing that the mid-90’s econoimic growth was originally a result of the regan tax cuts of the early 80’s (of course the bubble wasn’t such a result)

    the obvious take-home lesson is that govmnts generally are only capable of inducing long-term positive change – in the short run “growth” is usually statistical fluctuation. (I’d say the “bubble” was such a fluctuation.

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