COMMENTARY: A Death In The National Family: Public Confidence

By Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Joseph J. Honick
Editor's Note: This column was originally published in late October of 2008; the author believes it's worth reprinting because little or nothing has changed in nearly three years.

The most devastated victim of the current economic debacle is the death of public confidence … confidence in what has passed for national leadership … public confidence in a war that was drummed up on a lie and has drained our national financial treasures and cost our treasures of men and women sent out to fight in a foreign land whose millions of people could not rise to defend themselves even after their dictator was toppled.

But where is the outrage? Where is the editorial anger from the silenced media lambs? Why are so many seemingly paralyzed by confusion, fear and emotional turmoil? Where are the calls for accountability, meaning justice, meaning some public court trials?

The death of public confidence has not appeared in the tombstone pages of the usual obituaries in daily media or announced in somber tones on radio and television. It merely occurred as our political leaders from the White House down and sideways continued to wring their hands while banging away on the nation's cash register and federal ATM's to grind out hundreds of billions to guilty financial houses and claiming that health care for the needy would be socialism.

Perhaps the reason the death just slipped by is that two political parties contending to run the nation were consumed by the need to tell us how they will bring the change that will turn war and economic disaster into progress and a Disneyland wonderland of economic renewal, something called "market based" health care and a new world of leadership as we have never known it.

Somehow we have managed to funnel a trillion dollars (read that as $1,000,000,000,000) just into the endless war in Iraq that also included a billion for private public relations firms to help propagandize it, another billion for private security outfits like Blackwater … hundreds of millions more for private contractors like Haliburton and its subsidiaries to run mess halls for the military that soldiers used to handle and lots of other things we may never learn about.

While all this continues unabated, and another billion will have been spent for the current race for the White House and not including the untold millions for state and local elections, we are told unabashedly it is socialistic to provide health care for those is need, again even as we know those who could vote for it are granted single payer government health insurance…those people are called United States Senators and Members of the House of Representatives.

Is it any wonder that the very heart of public confidence has come a cropper?

The real wonder is why so few seem to care enough to participate in the funeral ceremonies or rally to demand answers from those who have been anointed to provide them?

No matter your beliefs or lack thereof, there are no resurrections of public confidence easily arranged given the disappearance of a sense of reliance on questionable governmental officialdom and confused and contaminated representative governance.

Matters are made still worse, if that is possible, by the emergence of some of the worst propaganda designed to discredit leadership candidates, propaganda in many instances that would have made the McCarthy era of guilt by association seem tame in comparison.

So what should the public want and deserve?

It is time to realize that the political buffoonery of this administration and the lax Congress in dealing with it must be brought before the bar of justice the same as occurred with Enron and other sleazy operations. The people want to know that even such power operators can be face with criminal review the same as slobs who drive too fast in the wrong traffic lane and wind up in the clink.

The place to start is right at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in the Oval Office. The chance to propose impeachment is long past and overdue. However the chance to censure the President is right before the Congress. Ironically, nearly 10 years to the day, on December 6, 1998, the Washington Post, citing the snowballing effort to impeach President Clinton, pleaded instead for censure. It said in an editorial:

"Tough censure is not the perfect outcome. There isn't a perfect
outcome to this miserable case. But censure beats impeachment.
On the basis of the evidence as assembled (this time on Bush and Company)
…..that's the grudging judgment we (the Post)have reached, and we hope the
House reaches it as well."

That was the Washington Post speaking at the time. Certainly no enemy of the Democrats then or now but addressing an issue that had struck the public mind so intensely, what with special legal counsel dancing all over the Clintons so publicly but virtually absent today for some reason when the public needs, demands and deserves complete transparency from a government that has permitted the nation to sink into an economic abyss from which it now seeks to escape responsibility.

And that transparency must include those who have hardly asserted its power to get in the way of some of these crimes against the public: Members of Congress, Regulatory Agencies and, yes, media of right, left and the middle who have not done their investigative jobs like old school muckrakers and permitted if not endorsed these political ne'er do wells to get away with their irresponsibility.

Until and unless those elected to lead our nation at all levels are brought before the bar of justice, the clearly devastated public confidence of the millions of Americans who are coming to realize the fraud imposed on them will not recover.

Neither pretender to the White House in this historic election year has proposed a path to begin that rehabilitation. The propagandists of the right sound more like the old William Randolph Hearsts in smearing character without proposing solutions; the propagandists of the left are dealing in generalities that at least are more in tune with possibilities but still lacking in specifics.

We all now await at least a germ of wisdom and courage that will demand justice for the perpetrators and concurrently some clear vision as to where we might go next, no matter how tough the road ahead.

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Joseph J. Honick is an international consultant to business and government and writes for many publications, including This column was originally published in O'Dwyer's PR Report and is reprinted by permission.
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