The Enemy Is Us


I suppose the one saving grace of the human race is that virtually all of our problems are self-inflicted. Theoretically at least, if we are the cause of the problems, we should be able to provide the cure or correction.

Hopefully, the Democratic Party will learn from this experience that it is not a good idea to award delegates on a proportional basis. If the primaries had been winner-take-all, the party would have had its nominee long ago and could be chopping on the Republican tree.

Instead, it is stuck with an exceedingly close race that apparently can only be settled by the so-called superdelegates, who are appointed and not elected (another bad idea). This means that inevitably they will be seen as stealing the nomination from one of the two candidates. This will undoubtedly cause a rift in the party.

I used to make money betting that no matter how unlikely the Republican candidate was, the Democrats would scour the country to find somebody who could lose the race. It worked with Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis and Al Gore. In the interim, of course, the Republicans picked up the Democrat habit and nominated Bush the First for a second term and then dragged out the old relic, Bob Dole, so both could be mowed down by Bill Clinton.

Now the Republicans have found another old relic, John McCain, to go up against Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. What a great choice in the minds of many: an African-American, a woman or a geezer. Though they won’t tell it to the pollsters or say it on television, there are still blocs of Americans who will not vote for an African-American or a woman. Racist and sexist? Of course. Who told you the American people had become civilized, urbane and educated?

This was supposed to be a shoo-in year for the Democrats. The Republican president has disapproval ratings of historic proportions, has screwed up the economy and has gotten us stuck in two wars. It should have been no contest, but the Democratic Party has managed, with its nutty rules, to make it a level playing field.

This means the geezer has a chance, provided he doesn’t topple over during the campaign. He doesn’t seem to be very much in touch with reality, but that will merely carry on the tradition of George W. Bush, who, as the Buddhists say, seems destined to have been born drunk and to die dreaming. They will just have to hire somebody to stay close and whisper in McCain’s ear who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. He seems confused.

Well, the world can’t blame us. We are only 300 million souls, which is a small field to choose from. Nor can we help it that reasonably honest people with reasonably good skills can make more money in the private sector than in public service, so that we are stuck largely with crooks, lazy people and incompetents.

Another self-inflicted problem is that our whole society, like some wooden house in a swamp, is riddled with lawyers who most resemble termites. There is a truthful old saying that if a town has one lawyer, he will be poor, but if there are two, they will both prosper. That’s because lawyers are hired arguers, and it takes two to have a dispute. Lawyers have almost replaced car salesmen in local television advertising.

There is a lot of talk about the rising costs of health care, but I think that lags far behind the rising cost of legal services. Legal fees seem to run into the millions of dollars in the blink of an eye these days, and not because there has been a burst of legal talent. They have their own monopoly and usually charge what the traffic will bear and then some.

But, as I said, most of our problems are self-inflicted. Let’s just hope we can avoid self-destruction.

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