D.C. = Dis. Connected. 

Baucus looks north, gets the fear

U.S. Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Nebraska, hit the nail on the head this week when he told reporters from U.S. News and World Report: “The White House is completely disconnected from reality. It’s like they’re just making it up as they go along. The reality is that we’re losing in Iraq.” Given the preponderance of the evidence, it’s hard to argue that George W. and his Halliburton sidekick Dick Cheney are anywhere but in LaLa Land these days. But what Hagel missed, and what’s becoming more undeniable daily, is that pretty much all of D.C. seems significantly disconnected from reality these days.

Take, for instance, the recent suggestion by Montana’s own U.S. Sen. Max Baucus that, should the Pentagon decide to remove six F-16 fighter jets from the Montana Air National Guard, they should be replaced with pilotless drones that would be used to spy on the Canadian border. In a letter to the Pentagon, Baucus complained about beefing up security on the nation’s southern borders while reducing homeland security forces, such as the Air National Guard, on the northern border. In Baucus’ own words: “We have the largest land border in the country. It is, quite frankly, a very high risk to our nation to leave the state of Montana without the ability to conduct surveillance from the air.”

Quite frankly, as the good senator would say, that’s baloney. It makes one wonder how long it’s been since Baucus traveled into Canada from Montana. Far from being “a very high risk to our nation,” Canada, which has been in the exact same place for the entire two centuries of our nation’s existence, is this country’s longest-standing ally and one of our largest trading partners. Canada also just happens to be Montana’s most consistent source of tourists.

Painting the Canadian border as a “very high risk to our nation” is more than a disconnected version of reality—it is unsupported by fact and is likely to insult our northern friends and neighbors.

Just think how you would feel to have the Canadians suddenly decide that America was a “high risk” threat and begin flying spy drones over Montana. You’re out having a romantic picnic with your sweetheart while drones are watching—and maybe recording—your every move from 30,000 feet up. Even worse, many of the new drones are fully capable of carrying high-powered, remotely controlled armaments. Makes you wonder about where the real “threat” is coming from these days, ehh?

Of course, in D.C., it’s not about reality, it’s about money, money and more money. Max, Conrad and Denny regularly fill the papers with announcements of how much money they have been able to haul away from the public trough while receiving accolades for “bringing home the bacon.” That the national treasury has gone from a significant surplus to the largest deficit in history in a few short years is a reality from which they are disconnected. The “bacon” they’re bringing home will, someday, have to be paid for by our kids—and their kids, and their kids. Some legacy.

Of course, part of the D.C. disconnect comes from the fact that all these brilliant decisionmakers are living in an armed camp. Want to go into a federal building? Step right this way, past the concrete blast barriers and razor wire and the guys with the machine guns, through these metal detectors, and over to that area where you will be thoroughly frisked. Oh, and you’d best have your I.D. ready. Even the mail from home has to go through a decontamination center before it reaches Congress these days.

All day, every day, our congressional delegation, just like everyone else’s congressional delegation, is beseeched by lobbyists, corporate moguls and unbelievably wealthy individuals just begging to spend money on them. Dinners, parties, gifts, foreign junkets, golf weekends, a little something for the wife—you name it, they offer it. Even worse, in their total disconnect from ethical reality, most congressional members have few qualms about taking the bait. Our own Conrad Burns comes to mind, whose palm has been as heavily greased as any in D.C. by infamous lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Meanwhile, back in the reality of Montana, none of us are living anything remotely resembling this D.C. kind of life. We are not afraid of Canada. In fact, most of us have good Canadian friends whom we treasure and enjoy. Nor do most of us have to suffer through the mental anguish of figuring out which moneyed interest we’ll allow to take us to dinner every night. We’re not being chauffeured around in limousines, and we don’t have to pass armed guards on every corner. Mostly, we’re just trying to have fun with family and friends, downing a brew after work, and cursing the high price of gasoline—from which D.C. is once again oh-so-disconnected because most of the gas going into those limousines is not being paid for by the congressional dignitaries riding in them.

No, here in the “heartland” of the nation, we are indeed much closer to the heart and far from the disconnected “head”—or at least that part of our government that considers itself the head, although some would argue it’s the exact opposite end.

Global warming? Doesn’t exist according to Bush, so no need to do anything about it—unlike the truly nonexistent WMDs over which we started a war that has killed and wounded tens of thousands and destroyed our respect in the world. Crumbling national infrastructure? Hey, we’re spending billions rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure, so no funds for those same needs at home.

Energy, education, social services, health care, insurance, credit card usury, you name it, the list goes on and on. That D.C. means “disconnected” seems inarguable these days. The only question is what, if anything, we can hope to do about it.

When not lobbying the Montana Legislature, George Ochenski is rattling the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Independent. Contact Ochenski at opinion@missoulanews.com.

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