We live in a country where the right to political participation is considered fundamental, nearly as fundamental as the right to store loaded firearms in your child’s backpack.
But with such rights come responsibilities. And you can’t expect to be a responsible citizen and voter if you don’t keep yourself informed.
Spring break was two weeks long, and a lot of stuff happened in the news. Unfortunately, most Yalies managed to keep themselves rather ignorant of current events during break.
In general, this occurred for one of three reasons: the nightly news programs were on TV, but you either slept through them, were too drunk to notice them, or couldn’t understand them because you don’t speak Spanish, German, Italian or British.
Therefore, in the interest of public stewardship, I have taken it upon myself to update you on four recent and important political developments:
1. The Clintons are currently having a contest to see who can shame the family name in most spectacular fashion.
Effect on you: Minimal, besides the immense entertainment value.
2. Recently the American Civil Liberties Union sued the state of Ohio, saying the state’s motto is unconstitutional because it directly promotes Christianity. The motto, “With God, all things are possible,” is found in the New Testament.
But last week the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned an earlier ruling, finding that the motto does not imply an link between church and state because it does not directly cite the source. As far as the appellate court was concerned, the motto could have first been uttered by just about anyone, from Alexander Hamilton to Lars Ulrich.
Effect on you: The courts have found plagiarism to be constitutional. Enjoy.
3. This week, the Senate is hotly debating whether or not to adopt legislation that will set new restrictions on monetary contributions to political parties and campaigns. In the end, it is likely that the role of soft money will be diminished. Meanwhile, the upper limit on individual hard money contributions will probably be increased from the $1,000 level set in 1974, when — as Senator Mitch McConnell is fond of saying — “A Mustang cost $2,500 and came with a free bottle of Kentucky bourbon.”
But this is a very complicated issue. Many politicians on both sides of the aisle remain unsure as to what the best course of action will be. So how can an average voter such as yourself form an opinion on the matter? Luckily, Sunday morning’s “Meet the Press” television program was rife with informative discussions.
First, Sen. John McCain assessed the willingness of the Bush “administration” to support the McCain-Feingold bill:
Tim Russert: So Sen. McCain, if your bill passes, do you think the President will veto it?
McCain: President Bush and I share many of the same concerns about campaign finance, and I look forward to working with him on this issue.
Russert: But President Bush disagrees with every point in your bill. He does not want campaign finance reform. Is he going to veto your bill?
McCain: He never actually said the word “veto.” So I look forward to working with my old pal George.
Russert: Old pal? Your chief of staff was quoted yesterday as saying, “The Senator would rather lance a hemorrhoid than talk to President Bush.”
McCain [laughing]: Ha ha, Tim, you’re such a joker.
Then, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle came on to discuss his take on the pending debate:
Russert: Some say you support this reform purely as a scheme to give you momentum going into a 2004 presidential run. Is that your true motivation?
Daschle: Uhh — of course not.
Russert: Well, then, what is?
Daschle: Uhh — giving the power back to the, uh, voters?
Russert: Why don’t you allay peoples’ concerns by saying right here, right now, that you won’t be running for president in 2004. And remember, your mother’s in the audience, so you better not lie.
Daschle: Uhh — OK. I have no intention of running for President in 2001, 2002, or even the first half of 2003. We’ll have to see what the future brings. Hi Mom.
Effect on you: Unfortunately, the effects of campaign finance reform on Yalies may well be negative. The University might lose much of the political muscle behind its $10 billion endowment. We might not be allowed to buy the Oval Office for our alumni anymore. And if the individual contribution limit goes up, Princeton students will have a significant advantage over us, since they don’t have to worry about paying back student loans.
4. An ever-evolving but always important topic is international relations. And this spring break was not without developments in this area, specifically concerning the United States’ relationship with the Emerald Isle.
Friday morning, in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, “President” Bush met with a group of Irish political leaders, including Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who presented Dubya with a crystal bowl of shamrocks. Bush accepted the gift with trademark flair.
Ahern: The shamrock is a symbol of unity. St. Patrick used it to demonstrate the concept of three persons in one God. Today I present this crystal of shamrocks as a symbol of the unity and partnership between Ireland and the States.
Bush [to wife Laura, who is dressed in a green blazer and looks like she just won the Masters]: What the hell is O’Mulligan giving me? A bowl of weeds?
Laura Bush [in a harsh whisper]: They’re shamrocks, Bushie. It’s a symbolic gesture. And that’s a Waterford crystal bowl. Very nice.
Bush [approaching podium]: Thank you Chancellor McGilligan for such a thoughtful gift.
Ahern: My name is Ahern, President Bush.
Bush [laughing]: I know, Shamus, I know.
Effect on you: When you travel abroad, you will be ashamed to be an American. This will continue until at least 2004.
JP Nogues is a junior in Davenport College. His columns appear on alternate Wednesdays.