The death of decorum

This might be considered a very late obituary concerning the death of decorum in our political system. Pinning down the exact time of death is a difficult task since the erosion of decorum has been ongoing for some decades now. Perhaps the first indications of the death of this once popular fashion can be pin pointed to the resignation of House Speaker Jim Wright in the early Summer of 1989.

For those of you not familiar with the events surround his resignation, the late Speaker of the House was under investigation for House ethics rules violations; specifically, for the employment of his wife in an investment firm which gave the appearance of impropriety, given that Speaker Wright could write legislation to benefit the investment firm. Additionally, the Speaker would collect enhanced honorarium fees for speaking by requiring that a larger numbers of books, which he authored, be purchased to be provided to the members of the organization to which he was to speak.

These seem like small infractions of ethics rules in light of the latest revelation by One American Network that Nancy Pelosi’s son apparently is involved in shady business dealings in Ukraine. Or given the clear conflict of interest issues surrounding Hunter and Joe Biden.

The death of decorum may have come with the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Front and center in the impeachment was the now all but forgotten Starr Report and the salacious details brought to light concerning oral sex and the perjury to a grand jury.

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinski"

YouTube screen grab

The whole affair (pardon the pun) ended, with an acquittal of the president.  It seems that then vengeance became the watchword of the Democrat Party.

Perhaps George W. Bush would have been impeached were it not for 9/11. Bush was very popular in his first term as a direct result of his decisive action concerning the War on Terror. But the media hammered away at all the things that Bush did when it was alleged that there were no weapons of mass destruction in the arsenals of Saddam Husain (but we should not ask from whence did the stockpiles of nerve gas used in Syria originate).

When Jim Wright resigned he gave a farewell speech on the House floor to defend himself as well as to issue a cautionary warning about political vengeance.

“And it is grievously hurtful to our society when vilification becomes an accepted form of political debate and negative campaigning becomes a full-time occupation; when members of each party become self-appointed vigilantes carrying out personal vendettas against members of the other party. In God's name, that's not what this institution is supposed to be all about. When vengeance becomes more desirable than vindication and harsh personal attacks upon one another's motives and one another's character drown out the quiet logic of serious debate on important issues, things that we ought to be involved ourselves in. Surely that's unworthy of our institution and unworthy of our American political process. All of us in both political parties must resolve to bring this period of mindless cannibalism to an end!! We've done enough of it!”

Mindless cannibalism, indeed. Will decorum and civility return to Washington? No, not in the foreseeable future.

Can the Republic survive in this cannibalistic environment? Only if it consumes itself quickly. The election of 2020 may be a watershed election that will very likely determine if the Republic survives.  In the last 60 days there have been weekly news stories or opinion pieces mentioning the phrase “Civil War.” Democrats have shown that they cannot be trusted with power. They prefer vitriol and vengeance to debate and deliberation. 

I fear we are in a time that Thomas Jefferson foretold:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

This might be considered a very late obituary concerning the death of decorum in our political system. Pinning down the exact time of death is a difficult task since the erosion of decorum has been ongoing for some decades now. Perhaps the first indications of the death of this once popular fashion can be pin pointed to the resignation of House Speaker Jim Wright in the early Summer of 1989.

For those of you not familiar with the events surround his resignation, the late Speaker of the House was under investigation for House ethics rules violations; specifically, for the employment of his wife in an investment firm which gave the appearance of impropriety, given that Speaker Wright could write legislation to benefit the investment firm. Additionally, the Speaker would collect enhanced honorarium fees for speaking by requiring that a larger numbers of books, which he authored, be purchased to be provided to the members of the organization to which he was to speak.

These seem like small infractions of ethics rules in light of the latest revelation by One American Network that Nancy Pelosi’s son apparently is involved in shady business dealings in Ukraine. Or given the clear conflict of interest issues surrounding Hunter and Joe Biden.

The death of decorum may have come with the impeachment of Bill Clinton. Front and center in the impeachment was the now all but forgotten Starr Report and the salacious details brought to light concerning oral sex and the perjury to a grand jury.

"I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Ms. Lewinski"

YouTube screen grab

The whole affair (pardon the pun) ended, with an acquittal of the president.  It seems that then vengeance became the watchword of the Democrat Party.

Perhaps George W. Bush would have been impeached were it not for 9/11. Bush was very popular in his first term as a direct result of his decisive action concerning the War on Terror. But the media hammered away at all the things that Bush did when it was alleged that there were no weapons of mass destruction in the arsenals of Saddam Husain (but we should not ask from whence did the stockpiles of nerve gas used in Syria originate).

When Jim Wright resigned he gave a farewell speech on the House floor to defend himself as well as to issue a cautionary warning about political vengeance.

“And it is grievously hurtful to our society when vilification becomes an accepted form of political debate and negative campaigning becomes a full-time occupation; when members of each party become self-appointed vigilantes carrying out personal vendettas against members of the other party. In God's name, that's not what this institution is supposed to be all about. When vengeance becomes more desirable than vindication and harsh personal attacks upon one another's motives and one another's character drown out the quiet logic of serious debate on important issues, things that we ought to be involved ourselves in. Surely that's unworthy of our institution and unworthy of our American political process. All of us in both political parties must resolve to bring this period of mindless cannibalism to an end!! We've done enough of it!”

Mindless cannibalism, indeed. Will decorum and civility return to Washington? No, not in the foreseeable future.

Can the Republic survive in this cannibalistic environment? Only if it consumes itself quickly. The election of 2020 may be a watershed election that will very likely determine if the Republic survives.  In the last 60 days there have been weekly news stories or opinion pieces mentioning the phrase “Civil War.” Democrats have shown that they cannot be trusted with power. They prefer vitriol and vengeance to debate and deliberation. 

I fear we are in a time that Thomas Jefferson foretold:

“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”