A few cases of philosophical whiplash

Maybe it’s an undue amount of idealism, but I look at most politicians and look for philosophical and, yes, ideological consistency. And I don’t view “ideology” as a bad word, though for many, it carries negative connotations. Maybe it’s having been a Boy Scout, and learning early on in earning one or another of the “Citizenship” merit badges that an “ideology” is merely a set of ideas, a world view.

But as I regard far too many politicians, it’s abundantly clear that it is a futile search.

Witness the Clinton Interregnum. To be sure, there were plenty – too many – in the administration who were dyed-in-the-wool socialists, starting with his wife. The great domestic scheme (“initiative,” for those who liked it) of the early part of the administration was to socialize the remainder of the health care system (half having been socialized with Medicare for the elderly), or nearly one-seventh of the American economy. But even “moderate” Democrats balked at that effort.

After all, at the top, it should have quickly become abundantly clear to all that the Great Prevaricator himself was interested in little more than acquiring and maintaining political power. Some saw it as early as the 1992 presidential nominating processes (former California Gov. Jerry Brown comes to mind). In the GOP headquarters of the day, we even had a poster on the wall – long since disappeared – that someone in Richmond had designed. It was a faux movie poster, advertising the upcoming attraction from DLC (that’s Democratic Leadership Council) Studios entitled “Slick Willie.” Among the many sly slanders of the plug? “One man’s story of saying whatever it takes to get elected.” It was so humorous that I had a copy framed, to hang in my office. Little did I know that the story was in for an eight-year run.

Then again, sometimes, you look at politicians and wonder why many don’t wear neck braces, to guard against philosophical whiplash.

Witness the so-called “scandal” over President Bush’s reference to Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from Africa, made in the State of the Union address as one element of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.? Democrats have even put together a commercial in which they accuse the President of being a “misleader.” Some, virtually all Democrats, have even gone so far as accusing the President of being a liar because of his reference to British intelligence reports of the effort.

Wow! Democrats worried about a President lying. It’s refreshing, even if a naked application of situational ethics, i.e., Democrats only want action taken against Republican Presidents whom they accuse of lying.

Of course, never mind that the President merely related reports from British intelligence – reports that the British stand by – or that his reference was merely one among the many good reasons why the Iraqi dictator needed to be toppled. And never mind the Iraqi dictator’s history of stockpiling and using weapons of mass destruction or the unchallenged consensus view (endorsed by a unanimous UN Security Council resolution, which included France) that Iraq possessed such weapons.

But our friends on the far Left have little problem changing what might seem, at first blush, to be philosophical course, since so many studied at the knee of the Great Prevaricator. Like him, their interest seems to be not in applying a valid world view to address the continuing crises of the day, but rather, in acquiring and maintaining political power.

To be sure, there are sometimes exceptions. Former Democrat Vice Presidential nominee Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., comes to mind as someone who, from time to time, seems motivated by something other than the acquisition and maintenance of political power. And Teddy Kennedy, D-Mass., has always been consistent in his desire to bring the wonders of socialized medicine to the American public, perhaps secure in the knowledge that his inherited fortune will always permit him to avoid the quality of care – or lack thereof – to which he would relegate the rest of us.

But then there are politicos like Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., whose bid for the White House has made him one of the leading critics of our efforts in Iraq. That is, notwithstanding his vote to authorize the President to move forward with toppling the Hussein regime.

But ambition is its own ethic, and it’s present at all levels of politics.

Witness our own local race for chairman of the board of county supervisors. Imagine my shock to learn, when I opened another of my Sunday papers, that the Democrat nominee for the office, a former colleague in these pages, “promises tax cuts.”


Wasn’t this the same Potomac News columnist whose space was the main clearing ground for every argument, factual and mythical, in favor of the sales tax increase referendum put to the voters on last November’s ballot? Wasn’t this the same columnist who debated the merits of the proposal before the Prince William Committee of 100? And isn’t this the protege of Supervisor John Jenkins, D-Neabsco, who was recently quoted in these pages as calling for tax rate increases in light of the budget “crisis” in Richmond?

Pass the neck brace, the whiplash is contagious.

To be sure, Republican incumbent Chairman Sean Connaughton has created his own vulnerabilities on taxes and spending. With a county budget increasing by more than 20 percent this year alone, and ever-increasing tax bills, county taxpayers are certain to be skeptical that the GOP incumbent is any less of a spendthrift than his Democrat counterpart. And, much to the chagrin of GOP activists who have been loyal to him, Connaughton led the board to endorse last year’s ill-fated sales tax referendum.

On the other hand, Connaughton has led the board in substantial and meaningful reductions in the county’s property tax rate. And while rising assessments have more than offset the reductions in actual tax bills, taxpayers are much better off than those halcyon days of yesteryear, when Connaughton’s Democrat predecessor and colleagues like Jenkins gave the county the dubious distinction of having the highest tax rates in the commonwealth.

Of all the nonsense I expect to hear from the Democrat nominee this year – he characterizes profound differences over policy as “bickering”; like all big-government Democrats, he wants to treat the part-time job of supervisor as a full-time occupation – the most nonsensical assertion of all is the claim to be a friend of the taxpayer.

In a year when Connaughton has created his own problems on the tax issue, Democrats have managed to put forward someone with even less credibility than the GOP incumbent.

An attorney, Young lives with his wife and their two sons in Montclair.