How many presidential vacations are too many?
Partisan bickering, name-calling and finger-pointing (also known as American politics) will always be with us, BUT…
Perhaps by being proactive we could MINIMIZE the charges and countercharges of hypocrisy, double standards and favoritism.
Call me a dreamer; but I would like to see political parties, news organizations and just plain folks gather to hammer out a document explaining the immutable OBJECTIVE STANDARDS for what is expected of public servants.
You know the sort of childish antics we currently face. A president from party X travels overseas and politely asks for seconds of a native delicacy; he’s immediately accused of kowtowing, treason, ripping the tag off the mattress, and every other shrill, knee-jerk charge the opposing party (Y) can think of. A few years later party Y takes the Oval Office; the president travels overseas and participates in the ritual sacrifice of a virgin to a volcano, and Y-leaning pundits suddenly have this whole “When in Rome” rationale going on.
We’ll never get my hypothetical committee to settle when life begins or how much wealth is too much wealth, but surely they could make a long-term commitment on OTHER definitions and standards of conduct.
EXACTLY how many presidential vacations are too many? What is the proper role of the first lady (or first gentleman)? What are the fine distinctions between “flip-flopping” and “evolving”? Which youthful indiscretions are fair game for judging character? The misdeeds and controversial statements of which associates (siblings, teachers, ministers, a guy the candidate ran into at the 7-Eleven) are relevant to the politician’s reputation? Think fast: exactly how many months or years should an officeholder be allowed to blame his predecessor?
Could we please have an all-inclusive list of the documents (tax returns, college transcripts, birth certificates, “Do you like me or LIKE me like me?” home room notes) that a candidate should be willing to divulge and a set-in-concrete TIMETABLE for such releases?
Can we have a reliable formula (based on the Gross Domestic Product, unemployment rate or SOMETHING) for determining when a department’s entertainment spending is reasonable or lavish? Could we enumerate the telltale signs of precisely when a congressional fact-finding mission devolves into a shameful junket? Could we strike a definitive balance between “remembering the district that sent him to office” and “bringing home the pork”? Could National Geographic help define the mating rituals that separate “listening to the needs of a constituent group” from “cozying up to” or “getting into bed with” a (shudder) special interest group?
Let’s establish once and for all what things are pluses and minuses. Teleprompter use: good, bad or indifferent? Outsider status: better or worse than “inside the Beltway” experience? Military service, church attendance, business experience, gubernatorial experience: do they count or not count?
I know. My ideas are far-fetched, impractical, heretical, doomed. Too many people have too much invested in the status quo for American politics: keeping political talk shows boiling, selling negative ads, etc.
But think how much more productive the nation could be, how much more civil the nation could be if we could settle a few recurring side issues and tackle SUBSTANTIVE problems!
The “24-hour NEWS cycle” is often derided, but it would be much preferable to what we actually have: the 24-hour “But, Ma, What About The Time Jimmy Got Away With…?” cycle.