What if our leaders had to be specific instead of dealing in abstractions and generalities? Voters must often make decisions about whom to elect with insufficient information based on misleading, emotionally-charged rhetoric. Speeches in Congress rarely clarify the content of bills so convoluted and back-loaded they defy cogent analysis. And political candidates fall into the same pattern when asked to define their positions.
What if energy, immigration, medical care and foreign policies were actually presented to the people in an orderly, factual manner – – points of view weren’t reduced to the contents of a bumper sticker as John Edwards suggested or if facts framed debates rather than partisan talking points? When bumper-sticker appeals define the nation’s decision-making process we tend to end up with, well, the kind of people we have in office now.
For example, what if, instead of trying to pass an immigration bill to suit every political taste,Congress passed some simple ‘starter’ legislation. If there is real need for migrant workers and that may in fact be the case, why not have the Labor Department issue a list of the jobs available – – a list that could be accessed on the internet, through employment centers and in local news outlets so that it would be clear how many workers were needed, for how long and at what pay. It would also help determine whether or not there were workers in this country willing to take those jobs.
After such determinations were made work permits could be issued for however many temporary foreign workers were needed along with some system for tracking their entry and departure. For that indeterminate number of illegals who have vaulted the borders or overstayed their visas, it simply isn’t practical to deport them. But it angers everyone on all sides of the immigration issue that people who have broken the law should be provided a path to citizenship, however arcane. Perhaps a less-volatile, green-card option would bring people “out of the shadows” without making citizenship the end game.
Simply throwing out numbers however, as the current bill does, makes no sense at all. Should there be 200,000 or 400,000 immigrant workers? Is this something to be negotiated or should it be determined according to a realistic assessment of needs and impact? It is the deal-making and the seemingly haphazard methods used to create a passable bill that helped to invalidate the whole process. And safeguarding the borders wasn’t addressed in a manner that reassured most Americans. People who live in southern border towns, especially those deluged with huge numbers of immigrants, have issues that need to be acknowledged and dealt with, not glossed over in some omnibus legislation that fails to consider the magnitude of the distress experienced in those areas.
And in all cases there is a troubling disconnect between our leaders and ordinary Americans whose hopes and fears are often manipulated but rarely considered when the horse trading begins in Congress or the president plays to his right-wing base by vetoing legislation that the majority of voters support. Voters are badly used and played for fools by too many of the people in power – – never receiving enough information or at least not the right kind of information to enable them to make intelligent choices.
Both Congress and most assuredly this secretive and corrupt administration work diligently to keep us in the dark about matters of great concern, whether it is the war in Iraq, the number and sponsors of the outrageous number of earmarks attached to legislation, the kinds of perks corporate interests derive from programs touted as ‘people friendly’ or national security. Our need to know is rarely indulged, for example, about how the insurance industry benefits from health plans regular folks are encouraged to buy or the enormous profit margins enjoyed by a pharmaceutical industry that puts more money into marketing than research and development. The abundance of erectile-dysfunction products is just one indication that prescription-drug manufacturers know a cash cow when they see one?
The hypocrisy that pervades the current government is infuriating if one actually has the stomach to pay attention. Democrats watched as the Republican majority in the House voted to impeach President Clinton over perjury regarding his sexual proclivities. But these days we are asked to disregard Scooter Libby’s perjury and obstruction of justice convictions about far more serious matters. Likewise, the president calls it “political theater” for Senators to call for a no-confidence vote of Attorney General Gonzales who either has an incredibly poor memory or simply lied to the Senate about what his department has been up to.
Those who would explain away the radical politicization of our Justice system by saying the president has the right to hire or fire federal attorneys for any reason at all are simply wrong. If that were truly the case we would have to find another name for one important sector of our legal system because the word “justice” would no longer apply.
It wasn’t only the war that brought voters to the polls last November; political corruption and a sense on the part of ordinary Americans that they were not being told the truth helped drive that election. Presidential candidates take note.

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