Senator John McCain wrote a letter to Senator Barack Obama, a very polite, if a bit caustic, chastisement for political duplicity. Once upon a time this type of political bravery would have pleased me very much.
"Rah, rah, McCain"..."Eat that you dirty Democrats"..."Who's corrupt now!"
I've learned a lot since then. As encouraging as McCain's letter is (at least there are elected representatives trying to recognize the problems inherent in our current Congress), it's no longer enough for me.
Please read the letter for yourself, but I will highlight some points that disabuse me of my initial enthusiasm.
The first paragraph is good. A nice, pointed dig. I especially like this quote:
"I'm embarrassed to admit that after all these years in politics I failed to interpret your previous assurances as typical rhetorical gloss routinely used in politics to make self-interested partisan posturing appear more noble."
I definitely agree with McCain on that score. There's far too much "typical rhetorical gloss" being used by our political representatives, irregardless of party affiliation, these days.
However, I can't help but wonder...
"As you know, the Majority Leader has asked Chairman Collins to hold hearings and mark up a bill for floor consideration in early March. I fully support such timely action and I am confident that, together with Senator Lieberman, the Committee on Governmental Affairs will report out a meaningful, bipartisan bill."
...what a "meaningful, bipartisan bill" will look like. Will a meaningful, bipartisan bill be effective? Will it STOP the corruption? Is Congress capable of cleaning itself up with our current batch of representatives?
While we can, of course, hope that the answers to these questions are a resounding "Yes!" I have my doubts that that's the case. Maybe that's because I'm still very much discouraged by the ineffective campaign finance reform that McCain and Feingold (my very own Senator) put into effect. I mean, has anything really changed on that front? Obviously not enough. Money is the major determining factor in an election. It doesn't guarantee a win, but it comes pretty close.
McCain also says:
"Since you are new to the Senate, you may not be aware of the fact that I have always supported fully the regular committee and legislative process in the Senate, and routinely urge Committee Chairmen to hold hearings on important issues. In fact, I urged Senator Collins to schedule a hearing upon the Senate's return in January."
Frankly, I no longer am able to support the regular legislative process. The process itself has been corrupted by the dirty fingers of our "representatives." That is why I feel it is essential for me to support Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy. We need a new set of representatives who are willing and able to remember that they are there to be public servants, not to take advantage of their power. Get rid of those dirty fingers, and I think Congress will stand a much better chance of straightening itself out.
"As I explained in a recent letter to Senator Reid, and have publicly said many times, the American people do not see this as just a Republican problem or just a Democratic problem. They see it as yet another run-of-the-mill Washington scandal, and they expect it will generate just another round of partisan gamesmanship and posturing. Senator Lieberman and I, and many other members of this body, hope to exceed the public's low expectations. We view this as an opportunity to bring transparency and accountability to the Congress, and, most importantly, to show the public that both parties will work together to address our failings."
I wish McCain the best of luck...but I'm not holding my breath. Our representatives, irregardless of party affiliation, have earned our low expectations. Perhaps they can rise above them. I sincerely hope they can. However, I think Obama is more indicative of the mood in Congress than McCain, and that is simply not going to be enough to exceed our low expectations.
Which McCain dismisses this concern:
"As I noted, I initially believed you shared that goal. But I understand how important the opportunity to lead your party's effort to exploit this issue must seem to a freshman Senator, and I hold no hard feelings over your earlier disingenuousness. Again, I have been around long enough to appreciate that in politics the public interest isn't always a priority for every one of us."
Politics as usual is no longer acceptable to me. As I've said, I've learned a lot. I've learned that politicians are more than happy to say what we'd like to hear. I've also learned that "talking the talk" is far different than "walking the walk." Maybe McCain will surprise me. Maybe he will indeed find a way to bring "transparency and accountability to the Congress." If not, VOID will still be here, working to educate voters and ensure that the federal government is of/by/for the American people.
(Special thanks to Unsomnambulist at Offline Adventures for bringing McCain's letter to my attention.)