President Harry Truman was once quoted as saying, “In Washington, if you want a friend you can trust, get a dog.”
No one believes Truman meant it literally, but his words were strong symbolism in evidence of his true assessment of Washington politics. Now, the Washington political scene is riddled with torrid examples of daily attacks across party lines that even Truman wouldn’t believe, and occasionally even, between members of each of the two major parties.
One hardcore professional politician boldly announced a strategy to “let no crisis go to waste,” meaning, viciously blame the opposing party for any major tragedy, using untruth and even magnifying the crisis. Civility between the two major parties seems almost non-existent.
In an earlier time, our elected officials seemed more harmonious and honorable in dispensing leadership. Seventy-three years ago, Fifth District Congressman Otto E. Passman, a Democrat, and California Congressman Richard M. Nixon, a Republican, were both elected to Congress. As members of opposing parties, Passman and Nixon became close personal friends, functioned harmoniously in Congress and even after Nixon became president.
The harmonious relationship between Passman and Nixon lasted throughout their long mutual tenure in Washington. Of all the benefits from the Passman-Nixon friendship, one was experienced when West Monroe built the new city government and convention center complex on North Seventh Street.
A federal program existed at the time that allowed 25 percent federal funding for the project but only for the police department, court and jail portion of the complex. The city applied for that grant.
Passman and Sen. Russell B. Long later notified the city that the Justice Department had approved the grant. A few days later, the Justice Department notified the city that the grant had not been approved.
Notified of that development, Passman said, “I’ll check it out.”
A few days later Passman called the city and said, “I had breakfast today with the president. While I was with him he called the Justice Department and said ‘fund that grant in West Monroe.’”
Harmony in government yields progress; factionalism destroys and blocks progress.
Since the founding fathers set up our “unique American” form of government, leadership in Washington has evolved, from flowering success applauded by the world, to a head-long plunge toward disaster.
The founders, as patriots and at high risk, sacrificed their own personal best interests. They envisioned that future elected leaders would also make personal sacrifices to serve the long-term.
With a new flawed leadership team in Washington fumbling to push through some programs that are weird, unaffordable, dangerous and strange, many Americans are shocked and concerned. And so are some of our friends and enemies abroad.
There is growing frustration, and fear, that our current national leadership — supported by a majority of the national lapdog media — is on a path to self-destruction that most certainly will take the country down with them.
History records that the life expectancy of a democratic government is 200 years, and they are usually succeeded by dictatorships. Our democracy is 245 years old.
Anybody ready for a dictator?
(Bert Hatten served as mayor of West Monroe from 1966-1978. He also owned and published The Ouachita Citizen from 1965-1986. He has been a mentor and friend to your editor for more than 60 years.)