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Local News

February 22, 2014

Our first president would 'turn over in his grave'

A government that seems unable to get anything done. A Congress that not only cannot reach agreement with the president, but with itself. Political posturing appearing more important than governing.

Today is the anniversary of George Washington’s birth, and local residents and politicians were asked what our first president might think of what is going on in the city that bears his name.

State University College at  Oneonta History Professor William Simon said “I think Washington would be disappointed with what he would find today” in the federal capital. 

Washington understood the need for compromise but said political parties were divisive and to be avoided. He was a reluctant public servant. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, there were some who wanted to appoint Washington a monarch, but he would have none of that, Simons said. He established the two term tradition for presidents and he believed in compromise. He believed that public service should be out of duty and not ambition. Gridlock and extreme partisanship would bother him.

“He would be saddened that public office for some has become an end to itself.”

State Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, said, “If Washington were to come back today, he would feel a great deal of pride that the United State has not only survived, but emerged as a superpower.”

But unlike the unanimity that existed when he was elected by proclamation, “the political polarization would be disturbing to him.”

Even in drafting the Constitution, there was sharp debate and discussion, he said. But somehow they worked things out for the better. Washington would be disappointed that there is far too little of that, in the city named for him, today.

Assemblyman Bill Magee, D-Nelson, said its a difficult time in Washington, with so little agreement. Both sides need to come together and set aside politics to get things done, he said.

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