I enjoy politics. I have studied U.S. Government, and understand how it operates better than most, I think. That does not mean that I endorse how politics in the United States operates.
They say if you want to cook a lobster, you should start off by putting it in a pot of lukewarm water, and then slowly increase the heat. The lobster does not notice the increase in temperature, falls asleep, and doesn't wake up again. Serve with butter. The people of the United States have been cooked. Rights, ideals, and freedoms have been boiling in the pot for quite some time now.
Who was the culinary master that put the pot on the stove. Some will claim George W. Bush and the death of Habeas Corpus (among other atrocities of that Administration). I, believe it or not, disagree. Bush was the waiter that served what was prepared. The true criminal would have had his centennial birthday today: Ronald Reagan.
Reagan actively sought the support of the then named (immoral) Moral Majority, now the Religious Right. He climbed into bed with figures such as Jerry Falwell to help secure his election (twice), putting a major crack in the wall between the now fabled Separation Between Church and State. Since this point in time, religion has become a more dominant force in American culture and politics, taking it from something that was largely a private, personal exercise to a public measuring stick of one's morality. (For anyone that wants to argue the Kennedy angle on this: it was a blip on the screen).
Aside from the shady ethical positioning with the Church, our birthday boy also was also at the helm steering the ship when his appointed adviser told him “Hey, there is this rather outlandish dictator in Iraq that is having a problem with Iran and would like to buy some weapons from us.” The adviser Donald Rumsfeld, the dictator was Saddam Hussein. I am going to trust in your memory of recent events to remember how that dance worked out.
Then came the whole Iran-Contra affair. The United States sold arms to Iran (you remember Iran, right? They were the country that was fighting with Iraq, the other country we just armed.). The intention was to sell the arms to Iran, to secure the release of hostages held by Iran, and then use the money to support the Contras in Nicaragua. Here is the problem with this: aside from arming two powerhouses in the region that were at war with each other, the U.S. broke several of it's own policies in doing this. “We do not negotiate with terrorists” (unless there is a buck to be made). Congress had also prohibited the funding of the Contras, in part because the Contras were known to be trafficking cocaine into the United States as a means to raise money, something that was a hot button issue because of the “War on Drugs” at the time (I wonder how that war worked out for us). Reagan claimed ignorance of the affair insisting that the buck stopped way before him.
The Gipper may have been able to present a good speech. He may have overcome his own personal dislike of the Soviet Union in an attempt to forge a new relationship with Russia. He may have died a horrible death at the hands of a disease that most fear. However, this does not make him a saint. He blurred the line of the Establishment Clause. He hand delivered barrels of gasoline and crates of matches to the Middle East. He thumbed his nose at Congress when he was told “no” (and don't get me started on the Air Traffic Controller travesty). During Reagan's eight years in office (twelve, if you count the first Bush), the groundwork was laid in a very meticulous fashion to support the rise of W. and all that he was able to destroy so easily.
Happy Birthday Ronnie. Your gift: a crippled nation.