Happy birthday America, best wishes for worthy governance

By LANCE DICKIE | The Seattle Times | Published: July 4, 2014

The Fourth of July is a glorious day in a glorious country. So how do I explain my restive feelings as I wish America a happy birthday?

Well, sure, it is campaign season with a primary election weeks away, and some of the not-so-latent frustrations stem from the office-seekers I have seen.

Trust me, this is a bipartisan irritation with poorly prepared candidates who have fuzzy motivations, and precious little time invested in learning the issues or much about their legislative or congressional districts.

For years, I have used the term “civic résumé” to describe what I am looking for, and not finding. I have deep respect for candidates who work their way through boards and commissions to city council, or city council to the Legislature or the Legislature to Congress.

This admiration transcends party labels. These are folks who show up for meetings, miss family meals, get yelled at in public hearings, and have a strong, learned sense of process — how government works. Not the kind of process maligned as delay, but the basic element in getting things done.

Too many candidates have no apparent interest in being elected to the position next to their names on the ballot. They recite ideological gibberish, make no effort to campaign, or educate themselves on the issues.

This political charade is proliferating across the country. Too many of these empty suitors from both parties plug up the pipes of a functioning federal government.

Congress has all the tools of oversight and finance to fully and appropriately hold presidential administrations and the executive branch accountable. And they are not used.

Instead of doing the hard work in committees, and asking pointed questions about delivery of services and stewardship of tax dollars — routinely — members of Congress wait for everything to either blow up or implode, and then hold mindless show trials.

The job is well-compensated and comes with health insurance and pension coverage. If the only skills are stalling and obstruction, then others are convinced they are ready to join the fractious fun.

Voters must be vigilant at all levels because the collateral damage can be huge. One is reminded by head-spinning U.S. Supreme Court decisions that the choice of a president, who makes those judicial nominations, truly has consequences — that last for decades.

President Obama is dinged by GOP warlords critical of his use of diplomacy, and stepping back from his predecessors’ easy embrace of military action.

For example, Obama is getting no credit for removal of all manner of chemical weapons from Syria, a country that actually had weapons of mass destruction.

The puzzlement for me is dumping those weapons at sea. Then I thought I heard the plan was approved by a sanitation consultant from Victoria, B.C.

Hand-wringing about Obama’s so-called restraint in Eastern Europe and the Middle East is especially ironic. Whining countries will not lift a finger or send anyone or anything to help.

America continues to inspire wonderment. For example, those technology experts who conceived a way to modify photographs to show how people will age.

Now Macklemore’s fans know exactly how he will look in 30 years when they go see him perform in a lounge at a tribal casino.

But then can anyone explain the upsurge in mindless jaywalking on downtown Seattle streets? Pedestrians, especially in the morning, are striding into the street without looking at the light or traffic. A potentially lethal declaration of independence.

The Fourth of July is the start of the editorial page’s 15th annual school supply drive of The Seattle Times Fund for the Needy. Please help students in struggling families return to class equipped to learn.

Prepare the next generation to govern.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His email address is ldickie@seattletimes.com


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