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Official accountability

May 13, 2013

Let’s get one thing straight. The profession of being a politician essentially breeds a culture of what most of us would term underhanded dealings. Getting ahead in politics is less about high moral standards and more about getting more dirt on your opponents than they have on you, and using it to compel cooperation, or at least silence.  Influence peddling and cronyism is simply the name of the game. The phrase public servant has seemingly come to mean the public serving the politicians, not the other way around. The IRS or any other government agency isn’t influenced by the party in power?  If anyone believes that, I’ve got a bargain price on a bridge.

That being understood, there are limits to what our particular society will accept from the hacks we elect. In the past few months it seems that this administration, like others that have gone before it, mistook being elected for the divine right of kings. It is one thing to lie or pander to individual special interest groups and quite another to lie to the entire population of the United States.

It is normal for people to surround themselves with people who reflect and accept their own views. We all do it. But hopefully not very many Americans would seek to inflict economic or actual harm onto the people that disagree with us.

This administration has made a practice of deliberately trying to hurt its opponents. If some groups think the government should rein in their spending, i.e. the sequester, this administration will go to great lengths to show us how bad they could hurt all of us with those miniscule cuts in future spending, simply to discredit the other side.

If you disagree with this administration and seek a public forum to espouse those views, this administration will see to it that you don’t get that forum, at least not through the formation of a 501(c)(4). Of course if you do agree with them, they will fight to the death to be sure you can continue to access tax-free public funding.

This isn’t exactly confined to one particular political party. Nixon tried it, J. Edgar Hoover did it, etc. The problem is, each of those former miscreants got caught and paid the price, even if that was sometimes posthumously. Leaving your own political viewpoint out of it, would anyone reading this want to be targeted by the radical wing of either party?  How would you feel if it was you and yours on the wrong end of someone’s absolute power to hurt you?  Revenge being a rather common human emotion, it could sure happen.

Throughout our history, we have assured those that serve the government, and by extension all of us, outside of our borders that we had their back. That’s apparently no longer true, if defending those people is politically inconvenient. 

Expecting a high moral standard from the people we elect should be axiomatic, but it seldom happens. Still, when confronted by gross official misconduct, it would certainly behoove us to hold those who are in violation of our core principles and who put themselves and their ambitions above the good of the nation to the spirit of public service and the practice of fairness and truthfulness.

It would be wonderful if we could find a way to guarantee that once a person is elected to office, they will perform public service for its own sake. Politicizing every issue instead of acting in the public good should be illegal. While it is unlikely that we will ever find a way to make that happen, we can at least demand accountability from those who step too far over the line of honesty and good character as a deterrence to those who do not have those characteristics.    

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