2005-01-14 / Columnists

The Progressive

Random Thoughts 2
By John Paul Culotta


Patrick J. Buchanan, Nat Hentoff, Gore Vidal, and Jim Hightower, are political commentators that have diverse backgrounds and political beliefs. In the past year all four of these men have written books that give a critique of the political scene in the United States. Despite their differences the books have come to the same conclusion on a vital aspect of the political life of this nation: 1) Many of the civil liberties our forefathers gave us in our Constitution are being eroded first to combat organized crime and now terrorism. 2) That Americans are so disillusioned, many do not bother to vote. 3) Corporate interests control the political debates because of the way political campaigns are financed in this nation. 4) The Democrats and Republicans do not offer real choices. 5) Congress needs to become a more active player.

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Patrick J. Buchanan’s book is Where the Right Went Wrong. Buchanan, a senior adviser to three presidents and a Reform Party candidate for President in 2002, is a conservative of the Goldwater school. Some say he is far right and an anti-Semite. His lucid writing keeps you reading. He contends that congress has abdicated its power to an imperial presidency. Although Mr. Buchanan’s conclusions are not mine, I must admit I find him to be informative and colorful.

A columnist for the weekly Village Voice, Nat Hentoff, write extensively on the civil liberties enjoyed by Americans. The War on the Bill of Rights and the Gathering Resistance is his recent contribution. He quotes Thurgood Marshall: “History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure.” At this time we need to balance security with liberty. There needs to be a discussion at every level of society as to how this balance can be best achieved.

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A prolific writer, Gore Vidal, is an American Brahmin. He is related to Albert Gore and Jacqueline Kennedy. He lives in Italy. The Times Literary Supplement (UK) stated United States (Essays 1952-92) is “ one of the great American books of the twentieth century.” A liberal of the old Franklin Roosevelt School, Vidal’s recent series of essays is Imperial America: Reflections of the United States of Amnesia. Vidal makes an intriguing suggestion. He says ‘No candidate or party may buy time or space in the media. Give free media and space to all candidates. Limit national election campaigns to four or six or eight weeks, which is more or less, what other First World countries do. A single act of Congress could make our election unbuyable. However, those who have been elected by the present system are not about to change it.”

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Thieves in High Places They’ve Stolen Our Country and It’s Time to Take IT Back is Jim Hightower’s contribution to the debate. A Texan populist, Hightower has a nationwide radio program. He was elected twice to the office of Texas agricultural Commissioner. This is a powerful position in Texas. He gives some dreadful facts: “33 million Americans live in poverty – 8 million more than eight years ago. 41 million Americans have no health coverage-6 Million than a decade ago. 9.6 million have no jobs-2 million more than when Bush came to office.” He wrote this in 2003. Today some of these figures are higher. This nation needs to wake up and proceed to make our system work.

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Hegel wrote “men are what they do.” It is not important what they say about themselves and it is also not important what others say about them. To understand others you need to observe their actions. The actions of our government need to be examined. We need to reform the political process in order to develop and prosper.

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