There is a strain of thought in certain theological circles that God will give a nation the leaders it deserves. If true, it may be time for “We, the People” to invest in sackcloth and ashes and recite psalms of repentance.
Perhaps then mercy will come upon us and we will be freed from the suffocating political pestilence that has now, like a demon, possessed our normally healthy organs of governance and given us the weak, shallow actors of low character we see paraded nightly on cable news. Can we add an exorcism as a line-item in the federal budget?
We don’t have leaders. We have manipulators manipulating the levers of government for selfish political advantage, for self-interested gain, for personal power. How have so many been elected?
Maybe it’s because political campaigns have become soul-crushing endeavors that expose one and one’s family to ugly social media humiliations, that have become so expensive as to require boot-lick pandering to monied puppeteers, and that demand degrading moral compromise in order to patronize the growing landscape of narrow, fringe interest groups.
It is getting so that only the most bloated, malformed egos are willing to run for office and, so, our choices are, more and more, confined to persons of feeble nature. True statesmen are staying away from elected office in droves. Look at the collection of odd personalities that have been running for president: Enough said.
This is a generalization, of course. Exceptions can be found here and there in both political parties. But we, as Americans, can be forgiven our growing cynicism after a parade of unprecedented efforts over the past few years by one political party to abusively wield powerful governmental authorities as weapons against its rival party.
First, the FBI was compromised by political partisans who infected its leadership and launched an invasive investigation into a presidential campaign — not based on sound legal predication but, rather, on biased personal agendas. Just this past week, more findings were released by the Department of Justice admitting that the fired FBI leadership team eavesdropped on an American citizen without legal justification.
Then, a special counsel was manipulated into existence by an itinerant, biased FBI director at great cost to the American taxpayer to continue the farcical investigation he had begun until it ran aground, lacking any fact pattern that could keep it afloat. The goal was never to conduct a legitimate counterintelligence investigation; it was to inflict political damage against a duly elected president.
Now we are being mugged with the misuse of the Constitution’s primary sanction, impeachment, by one political party, solely and exclusively, against a rival party president. It reeks of partisanship, not statesmanship. It is hard to pinpoint another time in our nation’s history when raw party politics has interfered so deeply with the noble goals of representative government and the will of the people.
Political parties find no special acknowledgement in the Constitution, no status or deference. George Washington warned against them and their factional dangers. They are weedy, artificial contrivances that have morphed into an unfortunate gateway to the electorate. They are not constitutionally mandated nor constitutionally necessary.
And yet, here we are, witnessing the sacrosanct protections of the Constitution — and the FBI and other governmental entities — being used as a cudgel by one political party against another. It is the hijacking of the finest form of governance ever designed, simply for a naked political power grab.
This is the true abuse of authority that has taken place. High crimes have been replaced by low politics as a basis for impeachment. A chimera of wispy “quid pro quo” has been offered as the high crime committed by the president — but the very testimony assembled by the prosecuting political party refutes it.
And so, they are still searching for “Hail Mary” witnesses who might give even a little credence to their manufactured charges and thereby spare them the impending judgment of history that their impeachment was just dirty, selfish politics after all.
For strong examples of actual quid pro quo, look no farther than the professional party politicians in Congress. It is routine for them to withhold, change or guarantee their votes in exchange for a campaign contribution or some other favor that will help them hold their seats for decades or add to their personal wealth. This doesn’t feel like representative government anymore; it’s more like a corrupt enterprise run by racketeers.
Cable news has delighted in juxtaposing what various congressmen and senators are saying now versus what they said during the Clinton impeachment. The hypocrisy is rich and amusing, for sure. But what is more jarring is that we are still being victimized by the same cast of characters 20 years later.
These professional politicians like to lecture us on what the founding fathers truly intended when crafting the tools of governance 250 years ago. Here’s something the founders would surely say to today’s career seat-squatters: “Go away!” You are a perversion of their ideal of a citizen-representative who leaves his or her profession to serve in Washington for a short while and then return home. Making congressional service a career inevitably fosters self-interest over the people’s interest. It gives corruption a hand-hold.
Theology across all major religions envisions a heaven populated by the self-giving, the sacrificial and selfless, and a hell crawling with the selfish, the self-absorbed and the power-greedy. These traits are not hard to differentiate. They are objectively observable by those who care to look.
While we can’t judge the individual soul, we can observe actions taken and draw logical conclusions about the character of those we elect. We should be seeking and encouraging noble, humble public servants. Failing that, we are condemned to the leadership we deserve. And right now, in this time and place, we have one hell of a Congress.
Kevin R. Brock, former assistant director of intelligence for the FBI, was an FBI special agent for 24 years and principal deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). He is a founder and principal of NewStreet Global, which consults with private companies and public-safety agencies on strategic mission technologies.