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November 19, 2007

The Politics of “Borking”

John W. Ashbury

Recently in my “in” email basket appeared a missive asking me to financially support Dick Durbin, Democrat U.S. senator from Illinois. It came from a friend in Tennessee and surprised me, for I always thought she had a conservative streak. Boy, was I wrong.

It pointed out something that has gnawed at me for a long time. I am becoming more annoyed at the politics of personal destruction, which seems to permeate all levels of the political scene. Certainly it is acceptable to challenge someone over a position they have taken – or even the votes he or she may have made.

But why is it now tolerable to attack the person. It is just wrong.

It all started, as I see it, with the confirmation hearings for Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. Many disagreed with the positions he had taken over his many years of public service. But why did the Senate Judiciary Committee have to attack his character just because they disagreed with him? Those hearings not only led to the rejection of Judge Bork’s nomination, but it also gave birth to the phrase applied to anyone who has been attacked in a similar manner – he or she has been “Borked.”

I despise that tactic. What I want to see is a time when all our elected or appointed officials work together for the betterment of our great society, not harangue each other. These campaigns of personal destruction have got to stop.

The greatest deliberative body in the world, with the possible exception of the British Parliament, has become a bickering ground. No longer can men of distinction argue their point, get it across, and thereby win the argument. No, today we must criticize the victor and “destroy” the person just to appear successful ourselves.

President George W. Bush may well be wrong in his decisions about Iraq. However, we won’t know that for sure for another 50 years when history will provide the answer. To cut off funding for those who are risking their lives is criminal. To do so just to advance a political stance against any president with whom you disagree is worse than criminal.

So, you don’t like President Bush and his decisions. That’s okay. That kind of disagreement helped shape our country. But our Founding Fathers had battles far beyond those of today. They risked their own lives and those of their families, as well as their fortunes. Yet, this country rose from the ashes of their conflicts and survived to become the greatest country on the planet.

When threatened, we should stand together, not belittle those with whom we disagree just to score political points with our party or our supporters. Will it take a terrorist attack on Washington itself to bring us together? I certainly hope not.

Disagreement over policy is one thing. But to sink to name calling diminishes not only the person so doing, but all of us.

I have stopped watching TV talk shows that bring in people who disagree just to have an argument. Present me with the facts and let me decide for myself what my position is. Don’t tell me what to think. I am an adult and can think for myself, although I should – and do – consider the opinions of others. Unfortunately there are too many among us who are like lemmings headed for the sea.

A Maryland Republican Party official sent out an email last week which said in part: “Five House (of Delegates) Republicans have sold their soul to Speaker (Michael) Busch and Governor (Martin) O’Malley.” The comment was in response to those GOP delegates who voted to send the slots question to referendum next November.

The party officials did not call anyone by name, so, I suppose, there is some saving grace in his message. If the issue wasn’t so important to the success or failure of the O’Malley tax increase plan, it wouldn’t have raised the hackles of party officials.

There should not be any rule which requires members of any political party to march in lock-step. Isn’t diversity within the ranks of those types of groups that makes this country so great? We’re entitled to the exercise of free speech in this country. Likewise, elected officials are entitled to make decisions with which we disagree.

On the other hand, shouldn’t we examine the underlying reasons for the disagreement, instead of assuming that we are right and they are wrong? We should stand for what we believe; we shouldn’t, however, think that our position is best for everyone.

I decided a long time ago that I was not going to allow politics to choose my friends. It is shocking to many that I can write something for this web site which is extremely critical of a position a politician has taken, yet still consider him to be my friend. There isn’t anything personal in my objections to anyone’s position that differs from my own; that hasn’t always been the case, but it is now.

I love America and will continue to do so. But the current climate in Washington (and sometimes in Annapolis) will destroy us unless we unite without any attempt to tear down those with whom we disagree. Politics sinks to a new low every day. Let us hope and pray that a leader emerges who can – and is willing – to unite us.

Thanks for letting me blow off some steam. I continually remind myself that there are idiots on both sides – me included sometimes.

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