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When rhetoric meets reality

by Morgan Liddick

Today, let us consider the message of two unrelated events, both of which remind us of the underlying reality upon which grandiose political plans often founder.

The first is the U.S. Senate’s refusal on May 20 to fund the closing of the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. As we all remember, the promise to close Gitmo was a hardy perennial on the campaign trail. Candidate Obama was vociferously supported in his desire to do so by the Liberal Legion of Legal Lightheadedness, who thought, by and large, that bringing 300 or so die-hard Jihadists of the likes of Khalid Sheikh Mohammad to the U.S. and providing them with the same sort of legal protections extended to your average stickup artist was just a capital idea.

When it came down to cases, however, it seemed that no one ” not even those who in the past used Gitmo to beat President George Bush like a rented mule ” wanted these miscreants anywhere near them. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, thought the whole lot ought to be shipped off to the SuperMax prison in Colorado. After all, the place is already so stuffed with icky miscreants, who would care about a few more? Fortunately for the residents of our fair state, and particularly of Florence, both Senators Bennett and Udall were quite emphatic about what the honorable Senator from California could do with her idea.

What is interesting is that both of these gentlemen had previously supported the closing of our detention facility in Cuba. Perhaps they thought that it would be appropriate to relocate detainees to San Quentin?

Speaking of California, the second event was the smackdown the Golden State’s government received at the polls. By overwhelming numbers, California voters said “no” to a package of measures designed to raise taxes, authorize more borrowing and in a breathtaking paradox, earmark funds for education. So paradise on the Pacific, which for many decades offered the rest of the country a glimpse at what the future could be like, circles closer to the drain. The example is still instructive.

Both the problem with Guantanamo Bay and California’s disastrous budget are examples of what happens when high-flown rhetoric, promises based on theory, and well-fed expectations encounter the messy realities of life.

Theoretical analysis is always straightforward. Answers are right or wrong, good or bad. This is the sort of criticism that Europeans engage in when looking at the United States, but never when studying themselves. At that point, they insist on sophistication.

The ACLU and other Gitmo critics also engage in this type of analysis. Were they extant in 1862, they doubtless would have sued Abraham Lincoln for failure to adhere strictly to the letter of the Constitution, preferring that the document be ” to stand Justice Robert Jackson on his head ” a suicide pact. Why they, and others like them, think that we will be made safer by criminal proceedings which will undoubtedly release at least a few people whose attitude about you, your family and your dog could be summed up as “death to just about everything” onto the streets of our cities is a little vague. As is the “how” of the promise not to release such terrorists, once they are availed of the U.S. criminal justice system.

Both Colorado senators, and Dianne Feinstein, and European governments recognize how idiotic such a doctrinaire faith in legal outcomes is, given the reality of the threat we face. Which is why few who rabidly supported the closure of Gitmo during the campaign now ask to have prisoners relocated to their communities. That’s called a reality check, and it is invaluable to the detection of hypocrisy.

California’s unhappy situation is an example of what happens when people choose to believe over decades that not only that they receive something for nothing, but they deserve to have it.

Such promises are the meat and potatoes of current political campaigns, so we need to consider the message of California very carefully indeed.

Basically, despite our fervent wishes to the contrary, we cannot veto the economic laws of gravity. You get what you pay for, not what you have been told you deserve ” and there is no free lunch. “The rich” will not foot the bill for you. Neither will tomorrow. California’s credit rating is now the lowest of any state, due to its perverse habit of forcing debt onto future generations. They are now in the very difficult situation of choosing among a variety of bad and painful options, all of which would have been much less painful in the past, had anyone been commonsensical about spending and the proper funding of state budgets.

Reality. It’s an inconvenient truth.

Summit County resident Morgan Liddick pens a Tuesday column. E-mail him at mcliddick@hotmail.com. Also, comment on this column at http://www.summitdaily.com.


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