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Wishes for Washington

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By Optic Editorial Board

To its credit, Congress was able to avert a crisis a couple weeks ago by not shutting down the government. But that’s about the only credit Congress  deserves, since just about everything else in Washington is currently dysfunctional.

Political opportunism prevails in our nation’s capitol this days, thanks in large part to the toe-hold Tea Party sympathizers gained in the last election, and the Democratic Party establishment’s tunnel vision. The Republicans exercise a double standard when it comes to budget cuts, while the Democrats are blind to the inefficiencies that overspending has created. So instead of getting a Congress that acts in the best interest of the American people, we’re getting a governing body that can barely govern.

That said, we’re not totally opposed to gridlock in Washington. Sometimes inaction is the better option. But we would like to see a better approach to governing:

• Wouldn’t it be nice if our elected representatives actually placed our national interests in front of their political ambitions? Perhaps they should be reminded that the ends don’t always justify the means. Power should not trump principle.

• And speaking of principles, let’s remember the difference between being principled and being obstinate. Compromise is a necessary ingredient — better a half a loaf, the saying goes, than no loaf at all.

• Meanwhile, as our elected officials pretend to be standing on principles, too many in the media play to the fringe — then the politicians play to the media. There’s also a difference — and very, very big difference — between leading and pandering, but it sometimes seems as if those in power have forgotten that.

• And while we’re at it, could we have a few more statesmen, and a lot fewer politicians? A politician figures out what to do based on popular opinion. A statesman decides what’s best and goes out to shape public opinion. Washington is full of politicians. Statesmen are almost impossible to find.

Alas, all this is just wishful thinking. It’s not likely to get any better between now and 2012, when it will be all about election and re-election and what’s best for the party; America be damned. It’s unfortunate that our elected officials have lost sight of what’s really important. This is the greatest nation on Earth, but we’re acting as if we’re determined to relinquish that position for nothing more than the power struggle of the day.