Published: Aug 08, 2012 10:24 AM
Modified: Aug 08, 2012 10:25 AM
Where is our outrage – our disgust – over a four-year, unprincipled, unpatriotic, undisciplined assault on the presidency?
Former President Jimmy Carter had it exactly right immediately after GOP Senator Mitch McConnell admitted, nay crowed, that his party's sole objective was to make sure that President Obama would have only one term. When President Carter, in response, suggested racist motivation, I joined many friends in both parties in regretting that he had inadvertently injected the very malaise that he intended to decry.
I hereby publicly apologize to our former president. He had a far more sophisticated and accurate view of racism in presidential politics than we, his tolerant, gentle Democratic critics expressed. McConnell, a small-minded man in a governmental body that needs honest and large-minded members, is the worst kind of racist: one who, like other oily specimen of the species, has spread his doctrinaire seeds throughout our body politic, smiling along the way. (Think the late Sen. Jesse Helms from my own occasionally troubled, but more often moderate North Carolina.)
I am fed up! Other former presidents have had fierce opponents. I now believe and urgently declare that what we have witnessed in the past four years is a well-orchestrated assault, not on a president but on the presidency. Dana Milbank had it right in a recent "Over the Line" Washington Post column. Here's my take. The leadership of the Republican Party caters to the "extreme right" on all issues, persuading citizens to vote against their own self-interest, cynically judging that conservative voters who aren't sophisticated about politics, but know things are not going well for them, will innocently accept both subtle and bluntly false invitations by unprincipled exploiters to blame their predicament on blacks, Social Security and Medicare recipients, and especially that "black guy in the White House who claims to be a citizen but is not and is actually a Muslim."
To risk my editorial voice, I have one critical word about press reporting of political palaver, careless innuendos, and even occasional lies uttered by candidates and carelessly avid boosters of candidates. I feasted as a college and law school student on Hodding Carter-like courageous journalism from, of all places, the deep South. Our local media had and still has many good moments, but it seems to me that a quotation like "The parties could not reach agreement," is a sadly lame report of the situation in which one party tries diligently, urgently, to reach agreement, even offering compromises that irk its base, while the other holds to its determination to be sure that government will not even take place, much less succeed, until Obama is out.
Balance in journalism does not consist merely in devoting the same number of column inches to the outpourings of the two parties. The quality of the outpouring merits editorial attention.
Let's hear it! How about an editorial series on government, focusing on advantages of state and federal government programs to our citizens? Some of our major newspapers do a thorough job of investigative journalism. Here's a respectful suggestion for their next expose: How many members of the General Assembly personally authored or at least benefitted by the recent pretense that a huge tax benefit for heads of all kinds of businesses and professional firms was a modest tax benefit for poor, middle class small business owners? Shame!
Take that to the Congressional level. How many members of Congress personally accumulate tax-advantaged fortunes while their disappearing middle class constituents struggle to make do with two wage earners – or one – or none? Really! How many? The people need to know!
Finally, what will happen if the GOP captures in November the White House and both houses of Congress? A guess: The new government will make sure that some of the very programs that the GOP now blocks will be enacted – like repairing bridges and other infrastructure. Priming the pump works! President Romney will rediscover that, as quickly as he "discovered" the flaws in Obama's Health Care Reform after pioneering the same plan in Massachusetts. Governmental spending can fuel a robust private economy. Oh, how our GOP leaders will point with pride! "See what we have done," they will say. "Obama had no vision!"
Obstructionism and cynicism should not be rewarded!
Paul Hardin was UNC’s chancellor from 1988-95. This column originally appeared in the Chatham County Line and is reprinted with permission.