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July 7, 2005

When will it stop...

John W. Ashbury

It would appear that politicians at every level in every state - along with their sycophants in the media - have been watching the antics of the Frederick mayor and Board of Aldermen over the past couple of years. How else could you explain the digression from the people's business to the "gotcha sound-bite game?"

We have watched in horror on occasion as the mayor of Frederick and members of the Board of Aldermen have issued snide and unwarranted remarks about their opposition on issues and personalities in ever increasing frequency. It has to stop.

In recent weeks Illinois Democrat Senator Richard Durbin compared interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects at Guantanamo to those used by the Nazis, Stalin's Russia, and Cambodia's Pol Pot. After a couple of days he issued an apology of sorts, finally realizing that his comments were being used around the world to discredit the United States.

But his regret didn't even get a mention on most Arab television stations in the Middle East, which had led their newscasts for three days with his original remarks.

Next we have the president's deputy chief of staff - Karl Rove - attack "liberals" for their opposition to military action against just about anybody after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York.

Mr. Rove didn't site anyone specifically. But guess who rushed to the microphones immediately to denounce him and his remarks and to demand his resignation? That's right, Democrats who proudly wear the label of liberal.

However, it was surprising to see Sen. Hillary R. Clinton, of New York, who has been marching toward the middle in apparent hopes of gaining the Democrats' presidential nomination in 2008, waxing eloquent in her indignation.

There are numerous examples that can be cited to justify Rove's remarks, which, by the way, were not featured on Arab television.

Former presidential candidate the Rev. Al Sharpton blamed America for the attack. And Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Utah and the ubiquitous Mr. Durbin have appeared at numerous events in support of, a group that labels itself as liberal. circulated a petition right after 9/11 appealing to the president not to be too hasty in his response.

But Congress almost unanimously supported the president's action in going after the Taliban in Afghanistan. And being right doesn't give one the privilege of superlative criticism of one's opponents in the political realm.

And right here in Maryland - as Democrats prepare to "review" the "firing" practices of the Ehrlich administration, we have two members of the joint General Assembly committee already saying that the governor's people "broke the law." Both Sen. Paula Hollinger, of Baltimore County, and Sen. Brian Frosh, of Montgomery County, are Democrats. There's nothing like jumping to conclusions before the investigation has begun and evidence presented.

And over on the other side of this probe, Republicans are issuing threats that if they perceive the investigation as a witch hunt and an attack on Gov. Robert Ehrlich, then they are prepared to reveal a long list of state lawmakers who have frequently and determinedly sought state jobs for friends and/or family members.

Here in Frederick the mayor and Board of Aldermen are always trying for one-upmanship. Recently, for example, when the mayor felt compelled to rescind her veto of a charter amendment reducing the residency requirement to seek the office of mayor, it was immediately pointed out that she didn't have the authority - by charter or ordinance - to rescind a veto; this despite the fact that by her actions the aldermen accomplished exactly what they set out to do in the first place.

Of course, it must be said that the mayor took that action after a federal judge ruled that the 3-year requirement was unconstitutional under both federal and state law.

And when a certain county commissioner had a problem with the Board of Education he sicced the Frederick County Health Department on them, thus keeping the petty nature of his actions from public view.

But all of this boils down to a "gotcha" game - a contest to see who can get a leg up first and get in the last word.

In the meantime the people's business takes a back seat and is frequently forgotten to the detriment of the taxpaying citizens.

The petty bickering between the parties and between the ideologies must be halted - and immediately - not only in Frederick City, but in the county government and at the national level.

It won't happen. The mayor and Board of Aldermen are so inexorably separated that no matter what "civility" agreement is made, it will quickly be forgotten and the pettiness will return. Perhaps it would be best if city officials just decided to do nothing more than is absolutely necessary until January. Anything that is controversial will only exacerbate the situation.

Astute long term observers have said they have never seen the rhetoric quite so divisive - ever - either here or nationally. And they see no relief in sight.

All the news channels on Cable TV now have programs designed to stir up the passions of the electorate. It's liberal vs. conservative; South vs. North; East vs. West; Red vs. Blue; and Republican vs. Democrat. But all it really is is stupid vs. stupid; dumb vs. dumber.

Perhaps the only real solution to all of this lies in the hands of those of us who vote. Perhaps we should throw all the rascals out and start with a new set of scalawags.

But, then, what do we always hear? Throw them all out, but leave mine alone.

We need a national leader who possesses the ability to bring us together rather than tear us apart. It would appear that such a leader is not presently on the horizon.

However, hope springs eternal...

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