Slip-Sliding Away

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Despite all the blather about democracy, we did not invent it, do not support it and have, during the recent administration, become less democratic than we were before.

We are and always have been too large a country for a true democracy. That’s why the Founding Fathers created a republic. In a true democracy, the people would decide practically all the issues. In a republic, the people delegate that power to elected representatives who serve for a fixed term.

A republic is a good form of government provided the people pay attention, fairly judge the performance of their elected officials and boot ‘em out of office when they don’t cut the mustard. It is a good form of government provided the best people, not the worst, offer themselves to serve in public office.

Our government really does not support democracy, except rhetorically. When the Palestinians had a free and fair election and chose Hamas members to man their government, we refused to recognize the new government. Apparently, the Bush administration’s definition of a free election is one that provides the results the president wants.

Most of our "allies" are far from democratic. Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states are all authoritarian in one form or another. Ironically, Iran does have an elected government, but there again, it’s one Bush doesn’t like. Poor Hugo Chavez in Venezuela has been elected and re-elected, but still gets called a tyrant by Bush’s step-and-fetch-its. China, which is a stern one-party dictatorship, seems to find our favor.

I’d say that if you are a dictator seeking the favor of the United States, you must offer financial incentives, be a supporter of Israel or volunteer for lap-dog status.

If you dare indicate that you are interested in the welfare of your own people and your own nation, you are likely to end up on the president’s bathroom list. This basic rule of foreign policy doesn’t seem to change regardless of which party occupies the White House.

It also should be noted that people keep insisting that Iran give up weapons it doesn’t have while remaining dead silent about the nuclear weapons Israel does have. If our government were truly interested in nuclear nonproliferation, it would support a nuclear-free zone in the Middle East that includes Israel and would not be making deals to increase the nuclear capability of India.

So, the second rule of American foreign policy is that hypocrisy and expedience trump principles.

Internally, we have become decisively less democratic. The present administration has a bad habit of questioning the patriotism and loyalty of people who disagree with it. It spies on everybody without any judicial restraint. It has riddled the government with partisans who are incompetent. It is the most secretive administration in American history. It lies like a drunken fisherman. It puts people in jail and holds them incommunicado without charges. It tortures people. It is contemptuous of the Constitution and especially of the principle of checks and balances.

Congress is too cowardly to do it, but George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are a lot more likely to deserve impeachment than Bill Clinton was. Clinton lied about his private sexual peccadillos, while the Bush administration seems to lie about everything. Clinton lied to prevent a war with Hillary, while the Bush mob lied to get us into a war in Iraq. A big difference, I’d say.

Thomas Jefferson did not believe that one generation had the right to burden another with debt. Our $9 trillion federal debt is a burden on generations too numerous to count. This is almost as serious a civic sin as lying our way into a war.

We seem to be following the familiar path of history where republics slide into empire and eventually a fascist dictatorship. Too bad that freedom, like a good wife, is most appreciated in its absence.

Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.

© 2008 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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