January 19, 2009

The Audacity of....

Back in December of 2000 I was one of a couple hundred people who, after reading with dismay that then President-elect George W. Bush had done away with the inaugural poem, entered a contest on Slate.com to write one for him. Alas, I did not win, but was cited for special mention in the subsequent article announcing the winner– truly a proud moment. If you’re interested in a little stroll down memory lane to the days of the Bush campaign, the article is here, and my poem is here.

I’m not really feeling poetic about Obama– that might have been a one-shot deal prompted by the peculiarly fascinating words and wisdom of “W”. This year, as we approach the inauguration I simply offer the following:

· The audacity of… Norm Coleman to continue chasing his failed dream to be re-elected as US Senator from Minnesota. Realizing that it’s tough to lose a contest to a professional comedian, there comes a point at which all politicians have to let go of their egos and think about the greater good. In this case, someone needs to be representing the Land of 10,000 Lakes. To date, all signs point to Al Franken. So be it, and let’s move on.
· The audacity of… any politician to question whether Hillary can be fair and balanced in representing the interests of the United States simply because of who contributes to her husband’s foundation. I may be naive, but pretty much every senator is beholden to some special interest or favored constituency - or other member(s) of the Senate - because of contributions, back room deals and handshakes and the innumerable quid pro quos that are the currency of politics in our country. Question her foreign policy experience, her bullet-dodging visits to other countries if you like – and you should – but leave WJC out of it. Get over him, already!
· The audacity of… our Congress to blithely hand over hundreds of billions to their friends in the financial industry apparently without any rules on how the money was to be spent, without oversight, accountability, or concessions. At the same time as our elected officials were demanding wage reductions, car-pooling and commercial flights from auto industry officials, six- and seven-figure bonuses were being handed out in the banking and insurance business. Exorbitant bonuses, zero accountability, and zero oversight for the fat cat financial experts – who, by the way were the ones we would have relied on in the old days to prevent exactly the kind of meltdown we’re in now. Get them back in and put some kind of framework in place, with real consequences for lack of action.
· And finally, the audacity of… the New York Mets and especially the hated New York Yankees, for continuing to belly up to the bar for money and deals for their new stadiums, and for any elected official in any jurisdiction in New York who approved the funds. I typically struggle with tax breaks and government handouts, but in terms of baseball, I prefer the Kevin Costner approach – “if you build it, they will come”. Certainly in New York, with our multi-billion dollar deficit, there must be something else we can do with the $2.1 billion that’s been handed over to these two profitable corporations to build their new ballparks. According to published reports, the Mets have asked for (and gotten) just shy of $700M for their $800M Queens stadium, and the Pinstripe Pansies are at $1.3B for their (you guessed it) $1.3B Bronx playground.

Here’s hoping that Change We Can Believe In truly starts now – at all levels.


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