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Governing America: Follow the money

By Staff
March 4, 2001
This time it began as a torrent of misinformation, innuendo and invective. I dare not use her language without extensive editing and cutting. There are some words which do not translate into civil language.
In the interest of not upsetting the other diners, I pointed toward a vacant chair, smiled and said, "Nice to see you." I introduced her to my other lunch companion, and reported both my mind and ethics, such as they are, seem about normal.
What's on your mind?'
This time I decided to return fire. "Lay off the media bashing while I try to digest my lunch please. What's on your … mind today?" The pause before mind was long enough to imply my unspoken regard for my quirky friend's somewhat convoluted thought processes.
At least she controlled the volume on this outburst. Good thing, too, for I have purged her language to meet the general readership standard. But I did err by cringing at her words. The result was more of the same.
One word
I shook my head, shrugged, and tried to find the loop road. "Let it go, the world knows William Jefferson Clinton to be, as Hamilton Jordon says, a grifter' or confidence man. The guy watched Paul Newman and Robert Redford run The Sting too many times. And speaking of movies, have you seen Oh Brother!?"
It was my turn to laugh. "And you accuse me of trying to change the subject? You want Clinton off the front page so that Dubya Bush will not have such a clear field as the good guy. The President's well disciplined troops are pushing their legislative agenda while the Democrats are paralyzed defending the indefensible."
I thought surprise may have flashed across her visage so I pressed on.
It was time for silence and more cracklin' bread, so I tried a leading question. "Don't you think a special counsel, say Sen. Fred Thompson, is likely to be given the investigative assignment?"
She boiled again. "Are you deaf, stupid or willful? What's the difference between selling pardons and selling public office? Are you so blind you can't see the for sale' signs on the White House? Dubya is just a guy who outbid another plastic man for the office of President of the United States."
I contemplated my rice and field peas, and she charged along. "What you so-called scholars call public policy' is made by folks who write the checks to pay for elections and lobbying. At least John McCain and Russ Feingold have it figured out. That is, if they haven't been bought off, yet."
And it was at last my turn. "You know I agree with you about reforming campaign finance. I guess the corruption we don't see doesn't bother us as much as the obvious favor trading. And we keep hearing the legalese that there were no quid pro quos."
She actually nodded and smiled. "Crooks don't make formal contracts. Even ivory tower turkeys like you have figured out that some deals are best unspoken. Are you standing for lunch today?"
And I got to put one in the victory column. "No, today it's dutch but you can get the tip." I'll not share her response.
Bill Scaggs is president emeritus at Meridian Community College and a senior consulting editor for The Meridian Star. E-mail him at wscaggs@themeridianstar.com.