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A Dysfunctional Government
by J. F. Kelly, Jr. 10/26/07

The most recent Reuters/Zogby poll on the subject revealed that Americans continued to lose confidence in their federal government and in the competence of their elected leaders. Fully two-thirds of respondents believe that their country is on the wrong track, a remarkable expression of pessimism regarding the future. Support for President George W. Bush continues to plummet, sinking to 24% from 29%. But even at that lowly level, it remains more than twice as high as the 11% approval rating that Congress received.

Democrats assumed control of Congress with a promise to change things in Washington. Things have changed all right but mostly for the worse. We are well into the new fiscal year and, as of this writing, none of the dozen annual spending bills has been passed. Judicial and other nominations have been stalled. Medicare and social security funding problems remain unaddressed. Illegal immigration remains out of control while liberal, activist judges and local politicians obstruct enforcement measures. The Alternate Minimum Tax, a creature of our bizarre tax system, threatens to engulf the entire middle class while Democrats try to find new taxes that could compensate for it.

J.F. Kelly, Jr.

J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California. [go to Kelly index]

This Congress, at its current pace, could set a new record for incompetence. It devotes most of its effort to posturing, jousting with the Executive Branch, criticizing the war, holding hearings of interest to relatively few Americans and little related to their most pressing problems, pandering to special interests, travel boondoggles, campaigning for reelection and crafting meaningless, symbolic resolutions. An example of the latter and an illustration of another clumsy intrusion into foreign policy was the resolution drafted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee regarding genocide perpetrated by the Ottomans against the Armenians nearly a century ago. This resolution serves no purpose today except to pander to some of the million and a half or so Armenian Americans. But it greatly angered Turkey, an important ally and a rare Islamic democracy whose cooperation is critical to most American military operations in the Middle East and especially in Iraq. This is not a trivial matter, whatever one’s views on the war in Iraq, because it impacts directly upon the safety and support of American troops.

Turkish leaders, who bear no more responsibility for sins committed a century ago than our own current leaders bear for the sins of slavery, reacted with predictable anger. President Bush had asked that Congress not take this provocative, unnecessary action. That, of course, was reason enough for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other prominent Democrats to proclaim support for this counterproductive piece of mischief. It is another in a long list of examples of putting hatred of George W. Bush ahead of the country’s well-being and its military operations in time of war. It is disgraceful and irresponsible conduct on the part of representatives who were not elected to conduct foreign policy.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush joined members of Congress in another symbolic act, that of bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal on the Dalai Lama. Some may be tempted to liken this to the resolution on the Armenian genocide because it greatly angered the Chinese who regard the Dalai Lama as a separatist seeking Tibetan independence from China (which invaded that tiny Himalayan nation in 1951). But the comparison is not valid. There is a difference between ancient history and current events and, while Turkey is now a democratic ally, China is still a repressive Communist dictatorship which still attempts to impose its will by threats and by force. The values that we share with China are mainly economic.

The Executive and Legislative branches of our federal government have become mired in a state of dysfunction and government is simply not serving the best interests of the republic or its people. There is, to be sure, nothing wrong with healthy political rivalry and debate, but the current state of relations between these branches of government goes well beyond that and it harms our national image. The nation is losing any semblance of consensus or compromise on most important issues and conditions seem to be getting worse. If unchecked, this political and ideological polarization will continue to feed on itself and hasten our decline as a great power as other growing nations with more unity of purpose and national consensus emerge.

Americans desperately need transformational leadership which will help heal the divisions and bring Americans closer together for the good of the nation. Who among the current field of candidates will provide it? Voters need to be challenging each of them to tell us how they propose to do it. The answers need to contain more than platitudes. CRO

copyright 2007 J. F. Kelly, Jr.



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