Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

June 18, 2013

WE THE PEOPLE: No time to govern

By Clyde Ussery
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — “When someone shows you who they really are, believe them.” — Maya Angelou

Bob Dole’s tribute to George McGovern at the time of his death last year was both beautiful and touching. Speaking of the friendship they shared and the work they did together during their time in the Senate and later in retirement, Dole said McGovern “was one of the finest public servants I ever had the privilege to know.” He went on to say that they knew what they had in common was far more important than their different political philosophies.

Times have changed. Recently Dole advised the Republican Party to hang a “closed for repairs” sign on its doors until it comes up with some positive ideas. The former Senate majority leader said that during his tenure “…we weren’t perfect by a long shot, but at least we got our work done.” Getting work done is not on the agenda of Republican congressmen today.

The first election of President Obama filled Republicans with so much anger and hatred that they determined to make him fail. For four years they refused to govern for fear it might allow the president to look good. If anyone had the quaint notion the president’s second term would change things in Congress, that fantasy was surely put to rest when Sen. Pat Toomey said some members of his party opposed expanding background checks on gun sales because they didn’t want to “be seen helping the President.”

Make no mistake about it, Dole and his generation fought for the same things the current crop of Republicans want. But unlike the Tea Party members of Congress, when the time came to govern they were willing to compromise and make deals to keep the government working. Let’s be fair though, how can congressional Republicans possibly have time to govern as long as there are “scandals” to be discovered, witches to be hunted, and hearings to be held? It’s a heavy work load, but on the plus side it does provide opportunities to grandstand in front of a TV camera.

The real scandal is that the branch of government that is supposed to address our nation’s problems has gone out of business. We have problems that need to be fixed. But, when we elect people to Congress who claim to hate government, we shouldn’t expect them to fix it. I appreciate the rational generation of Republican congressmen of the past, but I can’t overlook the fact that they pandered to the far right in order to get elected. In the process they let a genie out of the jug that they now can’t control.

But, Democratic congressmen are not blame-free. Instead of standing up, they often let themselves be backed into a corner. A prime example: after four years of blatant filibuster abuse by Republicans, Democrats refused to end that outdated Senate rule. They chose, instead, to support an outdated and destructive rule above the welfare of the nation.

Fortunately, I can say that (in public) without fear of being purged from my party. Democrats often disagree with other Democrats because we have no one to tell us what to think. We follow no playbook, no script. Each of us marches to our own drummer. But at the end of the day we are all headed in pretty much the same direction because we still listen to each other.

• • •

This column represents alternative thoughts to other published columns in the Crossville Chronicle. “We the People” is published each Wednesday. Opinions expressed in “We the People” columns are not necessarily those of the Crossville Chronicle publisher, editor or staff. For more information, contact John Wund, editor, at