Saturday, April 29, 2006


The horrible truth is that our politicians care more about their job, perks or whatever than they do about our country. As we head into a national election year, the posturing by congressmen and senators has turned into an absolute circus. Each of them is determined to gain sufficient recognition to garner a win at the polls. And not through presenting constructive measures, quality plans and new ideas, but through verbal assassination of anyone and anything they perceive the public to dislike.

Is this what our founding fathers had in mind when they framed the constitution and bylaws? I certainly hope not! It certainly isn’t how I was taught that our government was supposed to work. I have always tried to judge who to vote for based upon the candidate’s ability to articulate constructive ways to make our country stronger, safer and wealthier.

This prompts a look back through history and we can stop pretty quickly in the year 1856. On May 22nd of that year, Congressman Preston Brooks (D-SC) stormed into the US Senate chamber with a metal tipped cane and beat Senator Charles Sumner (R-MA) bloody in front of all those assembled. He did so ostensibly to defend the honor of his Senate counterpart from South Carolina, Senator Andrew Butler who had been the subject of a particularly venomous verbal assault three days earlier by Senator Sumner.

Interestingly enough, Sumner’s insults were directed at Butler because Butler favored admitting Kansas to the Union as a slave state. Here are a few quotes from Sumner’s rant.

He has taken a mistress . . . who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to him; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in his sight—I mean the harlot, Slavery."

Okay - so we haven’t seen anything quite this distressing out of our elected officials recently - at least not yet. What recalling this abhorrent event demonstrates is that, as bad as the nasty rhetoric and personal attacks have gotten nowadays, as vicious as they may sound, we have a way to go yet before we reach the rock bottom of American politics at its absolute worst.

Of course, the Sumner beating is widely suggested to have been a major player in leading the country into a civil war. Is it possible from the increasing tempo of political rancor that we could be headed in that direction again? I don’t think so. And the reason I don’t think so is that in 1856 Senators and Congressmen were far more principled than what we see today. Today, in an election year, most of them would sell their mother into slavery for a good sound byte and a couple of votes.

Yes, today’s Senators and Congressmen have also taken a mistress… who, though ugly to others, is always lovely to them; though polluted in the sight of the world, is chaste in their sight – I mean the harlot, selfishness.