Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pay to Play?

One of the things I have learned to do in this polarized climate is to keep my mouth shut when I hear others ranting about Obama, Pelosi, Reid and all the Democrats who throw away our tax dollars on excessive programs. As a rule, I bite my tongue and avoid saying things like “Where were you when Bush and a Republican majority in Congress created a trillion dollar deficit in just a couple of short years after entering office with the first surplus in the modern history of our nation?” At lunch yesterday, I sat patiently and waited, without comment, while two of my fellow golfers did what I euphemistically refer to as ‘the Fox thing’. They worked their way through Obama’s arrogance, Pelosi’s facelift, the failure of Social Security and the government’s role in deciding what kind of medical treatment we would get if the health plan is passed. Finally, I couldn’t help myself. In my most measured tone of voice, I leaned forward and asked the question, “What do you guys think about last week’s Supreme Court decision that allows foreign corporations to give unlimited funding to political candidates in the United States?” [Background: The conservative five members of the Court who rave constantly about judicial activism and other judges who ignore the original meaning and intent of the men who drafted our Constitution took it upon themselves to overturn case law over the last 104 years establishing reasonable limits on the campaign expenditures of corporations. They did this even though the original appeal before them did not seek the relief the Court provided. When Obama mentioned this during his State of the Union address this week, Alito, one of the justices who participated in the decision shook his head and mouthed the words ‘that’s not true.’]

Both guys sat back and looked at me like I just stepped out of a spaceship from a different planet. “Money has nothing to do with politics,” one of them said. The other nodded his head approvingly. He continued, “Money doesn’t influence politics. It is issues that are important.” These are nice guys, and both of them are a hell of a lot better golfers than I ever will be, but I sat there dumbfounded. I didn’t have to practice any restraint in staying silent, because I didn’t know how to respond. My mind worked furiously, I was trying to remember the exact phrasing of an old saying. I was trying to remember who said it. It goes something like this. “There are two things that are important in politics, the first is money, . . .and I can’t remember the second.” My final thought as we shook hands and went our separate ways is that I had missed an opportunity for a teachable moment by staying silent. It wouldn’t have done any good. Fox had already spoken on this issue. The various pundits had already proclaimed that spending money on campaigns does not influence outcomes. And so it is.

Maybe I am from a different planet.

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