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Doug Giebel: When Everything Real Is Fake

When Everything Real Is Fake

by Doug Giebel

"The golden rule is that there are no golden rules."

Since at least the ancient time of Aristophanes, politicians have been described with terms of ridicule and contempt. Contemporary Americans, it would seem, regard politicians mostly as a crowd of ambitious, greedy, two-faced professional manipulators beholden to special interests. The popular 19th century saying sums it up: "An honest politician is one who when he's bought stays bought." And still the voters choose to keep electing men and women held in low regard to manage the most important affairs of the nation. Why is this so?

W.C. Fields might have said, "You can't trust an honest man."(Or woman.) Why else would voters who understand the duplicitous meaning of "campaign promise" fail to demand accountability from elected and appointed officials at yet denounce, despise and punish whistleblowers, investigative reporters and editors who expose political corruption, lying and criminal behavior? Maybe the public can't tolerate affirmation of its not-so-secret beliefs.

With all of its faults, the presidential era of George W. Bush has definitively exposed the ignobility of corporate-political hubris, greed, corruption and cowardice not only within Republican ranks, but among rank Democrats as well. Coerced by arm-twisting big contributors into a 365/24/7 race to collect campaign "donations," aspirants to political office have definitely affirmed that "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

Nothing succeeds like "excess." So Americans are willing to tolerate official misbehavior unless, perhaps, it becomes too obvious to ignore, as with the Abramoff and Cunningham capers. And yet the excesses of anti-American actions such as torture, warrantless searches, no-bid contracts to cronies, outrageous deficits, incompetence -- where's the massive public outcry against those abuses? Why no growing national protest to support courageous loners such as Rep. John Murtha and calls to halt the stupendously-idiotic "war" in Iraq with its never-ending story of brutality? Why do the self-described patriots who cry "Support the troops!" retreat to the closet and couch when it comes to terminating repeated deployments, giving jobs to returning veterans, demanding more and better mental and physical health care for those who served and are still alive?

The John Murtha situation is most instructive. In spite of Murtha's credentials, intelligence, passion and compassion, few elected politicians are willing to stand up with him in his sensible call for redeployment and for halting the emotional damage suffered by our military men and women who are serving the Bush will in Iraq. Those absent politicians are fearful, not of a terrorist attack, but of losing: losing donors and losing elections. Demanding and applauding bravery from those forced into harm's way, the pols are notoriously without the courage of their convictions because they have no firm convictions beyond becoming elected.

In government and in bureaucracy, no one wants to be held accountable. Congressional committees hold mostly faux-hearings, where the outcome is seldom in doubt and few really "hard" questions are asked. This fact was most clearly exposed when Senator Arlen Specter permitted Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to give obfuscating testimony without being sworn in. Senators dealing with the recent nomination of General Hayden went on television prior to the hearing and stated that they planned to ask Hayden tough questions, but they also oozed about how much they admired the general. In a recent Sunday morning interview, Attorney General Gonzales inferred that the need to spy on journalists trumps First Amendment free speech guarantees. And President Bush apparently believes his primary duty is to "protect the American people" rather than to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

What of the Democrats? When Al Gore and John Kerry ran for the presidency, they were so intimidated by handlers and consultants that they could barely express a controversial idea or genuine emotion. Now the potential front-runner, Hillary Clinton, is beginning to pander her way onto the presidential playing field. Apart from the village children, it's becoming ever more impossible to learn where Hillary comes down on any important issue. Tepid Democratic leadership in Congress signals only more of the tired old staus quo.

Only one major Democratic figure demonstrates that he learned valuable lessons from past experience: Al Gore. Since being freed from brain-dead political advisors, Gore has evolved into the genuine article, a human being willing to openly express his concerns, his beliefs and his stand in a "damn the torpedoes" mixture of outrage and humor. It has been Gore's good fortune to have been largely ignored by the mainstream corporate media as he has toured the country honing his new-found message and style. The public, easily bored by anything less than the latest car-crash footage, has not had the opportunity to become over-exposed to the New Al Gore.

The manipulators of American politics have all but destroyed our national landscape and have turned everything real into fakery. Winning is all that matters, no matter the cost--in dollars, in honor, in lives. Whether a nation so satisfied with itself and so forgiving of deceit and duplicity could ever embrace a "born-again" Al Gore seems doubtful. Whether Gore, if elected, could remain true to the real man he has found in himself -- that's doubtful, too.

And yet the United States of America must be governed, managed and led by human beings whose faults are manifest but whose possibilities must never be cynically abandoned. The fault lies not in the craven politicians we have elected but in those of us who have so willingly elected them. If change is to happen, we the people must bring about that change.


Doug Giebel is a writer and analyst who welcomes comment at

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