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February 27, 2014

In Our Opinion: Washington, indeed, would be appalled

The Daily Star

---- — This opinion, reflecting the views of a political movement, was written in a newspaper on the occasion of a president of the United States retiring from office after serving two terms.

“… the man who is the source of all the misfortunes of our country is this day reduced to a level with his fellow-citizens, and is no longer possessed of power to multiply evils upon the United States. If ever there was a period of rejoicing, this is the moment.”

Kind of nasty, huh? The editorial went on:

“Every heart in unison with the freedom and happiness of the people, ought to beat high with exultation that the name of Washington from this day ceased to give a currency to political iniquity and to legalized corruption.”

Yes, the departing president being excoriated was George Washington, “first in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen.”

It would seem to indicate that criticism of presidents has a long and unstinted history, and that rancor among our leaders is not anything new.

But there is an important difference.

A week ago, on the anniversary of his birth, this newspaper asked some office-holders and other community members about what they surmised George Washington might think about the way politicians were behaving in the city that bears his name.

Some, including Assemblyman Clifford Crouch, R-Bainbridge, said that Washington would be pleased that there is still a democratic form of government after all these years that is still using the Constitution for its guiding principles.

But there was virtual unanimity among the people with whom we spoke that Washington would be disappointed in how the politicians of today are doing — and usually not doing — the people’s business.

This opinion, from Heather Muller, 28, of Walton, was typical.

“He probably wouldn’t be very happy about the government in Washington. They aren’t doing anything. I really don’t think they care about the people.”

The gridlock and grandstanding prevalent in today’s politics probably would have appalled Washington, who as the presiding officer of the constitutional convention did not have to deal with the massive media and Internet reality of today.

“Nothing spoken or written can be revealed to anyone — not even your family — until we have adjourned permanently,” Washington instructed. “Gossip or misunderstanding can easily ruin all the hard work we shall have to do this summer.”

Still, it took two years for all 13 states to ratify the document. But the fact is, that the original Constitution — and years before that, the Declaration of Independence — did get done.

Ultimately, unlike today, the good of the country trumped petty politics.

Therein lies the difference.