Sunday, January 16, 2011

Political Quote of the Day

George F. Will
I stumbled over this magnificent summary of where we were at America's exceptional founding, where we are today at the commencement of the 112th Congress, and where we are headed in the future.  It comes from George Will, and you can read the whole article here:

The American Revolution was a political, not a social revolution; it was about emancipating individuals for the pursuit of happiness, not about the state allocating wealth and opportunity. Hence our exceptional Constitution, which says not what government must do for Americans but what it cannot do to them.

Americans are exceptionally committed to limited government because they are exceptionally confident of social mobility through personal striving. And they are exceptionally immune to a distinctively modern pessimism: It holds that individuals are powerless to assert their autonomy against society's vast impersonal forces, so people must become wards of government, which supposedly is the locus and engine of society's creativity.

Two years into Barack Obama's presidency, we now know what he meant about "hope" and "change" — he and other progressives hope to change our national character. Three weeks into his presidency, Newsweek, unhinged by adoration of him, and allowing its wishes to father its thoughts, announced that "we are all socialists now" and that America "is moving toward a modern European state." The electorate emphatically disagreed, and created the 112th Congress, with its exceptionally important agenda.

* * *

As I read Will's article this morning, I was reminded of a particularly tense moment in my personal history.  We were a group of bold entrepreneurs attempting the impossible -- lobbying Congress for an important piece of a financial puzzle for the benefit of charities.  We had been gathered in an anteroom next to the hearing room normally occupied by the Senate Finance Committee in the Senate Office Building in Washington D.C.  

We had been in a session with representatives from the Congressional Budget Office and staff members of two senators on the Senate Finance Committee.  It had not gone well.  It was obvious there was opposition from the other senator's chief of staff, who had apparently urged the CBO not to cooperate.  Whatever the explanation, clearly no one was acting in good faith.  As we left without the needed resolution in hand, we were beaten down, abjectly defeated and without hope.  

We returned to our hotel, gathered our luggage and left in dismay for the airport to return to our various destinations.  We felt as though our project had failed, the limo ride to the airport uncharacteristically silent and the mood morose.  

One phone call changed everything.  "Turn around and come back to my condo, cancel your flights and be prepared to stay another day.  We have a solution."  

As we gathered again early that evening we learned the senator who had been championing our cause had instructed his chief of staff to "fix it" when he heard about our rejection by the CBO.  

We learned there is a devise often used between senators called a colloquy that could be inserted into the Senate record, summarizing our position with the negotiated acquiescence of the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.  A colloquy is a summary of a "conversation" that never really happens but it is put into the record as though it did.  The details are hammered out by staff, an agreement over language is secured by the two senators, and it becomes part of the official record as though the conversation had actually occurred.

We labored over the language that evening together, spelling out in detail what we needed as an exception in the pending adverse legislation, negotiating as we went between the two staffs of the opposing senators (even though they were both Republicans).  

Finally, late that night we reached agreement on the needed language for the colloquy and one of our group uttered this memorable phrase I have never forgotten:  "A spontaneous display of morale suddenly broke out."   

Our senator personally walked the colloquy onto the Senate floor at 1:00 a.m. in the morning to give it to the clerk so it could be inserted into the Senate record.  We had come back from the brink of a seemingly impossible precipice moment to final achievement of our goal.  We had won the battle and we had won the war, but it didn't happen until the last extremity had been visited.  (I suppose to be brutally honest, we lost the "war" when the financial markets melted down and our project cratered, but we sure won a lot of improbable battles like this one along the way).

I wonder if that isn't analogous to where we are today in America.  The 112th Congress, as they commence their path back from the brink of the legislative devastation of the last two years has all our hopes for the future of America in their hands.

Sorry if that sounds too melodramatic.  To those who insist the last two years have been a legislative "triumph" for social re-engineering, you have valid point.  The sheer weight of the paper alone is prodigious and without precedent. But I would ask, "At what cost?"

Men and women of goodwill from both parties serving in this 112th Congress must (and I believe WILL) find critical solutions to America's most pressing problem -- reducing spending, debt and deficits. Polling data among Americans suggests they still have a long way to go before they are pleasing their boss.  Once that is achieved, let's reduce government and make it truly "limited." In a crisis, America has always risen to the occasion.  Freedom depends upon it.

Watch for new leadership and morale to break out.

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