Washington–In the aftermath of a nightmarish Presidential election, in which both candidates were disliked and distrusted by a majority of American voters, it’s time to consider fundamental changes in our political system.
Some changes would be relatively easy to win bipartisan support. Others not so much. But a serious debate is called for to avoid a repetition of the political trauma just experienced.
For example, who would dispute the need for the next Congress to pass a law requiring each aspirant for the Presidency to immediately make public, on announcing his candidacy, both his tax returns and his complete health records for the previous ten years?
The public has an absolute right to know if the candidate is in tip-top physical and psychological shape and has paid his fair share of taxes, like any ordinary citizen.
Donald Trump, who promised to “drain the swamp”in Washington and “make America great again,” campaigned as an agent of change.
But again and again, he took outlandish positions that would have instantly doomed a normal candidate. Such as deriding the sacrifices of Senator John McCain, by saying that he preferred those who had not been captured. Or disrespesting a Moslem Gold Star Mother who’s son died a hero’s death in Iraq.
He charged that a large number of Mexican migrants were either rapists or drug smugglers. He vowed to deport 11 million illegal aliens in two years. His grossly misleading assertions, made on prime time television, stood largely without timely challenge as his candidacy built momentum.
Where were the truth-tellers who would dispute his mischaracterization of Mexican aliens? Who made an effort to point out that the undocumented aliens represent an important five percent of the country’s workforce, pay taxes, lead blameless, constructive lives, and that it would require the creation of a sort of Gestapo to locate and forcibly deport them overnight?
Hillary Clinton often skirted the truth as well, though not as often and nat as egregiously. Her use of a private email server was set up for convenience, so should wouldn’t have to carry more than one cellphone? And it was approved by an unnamed State Department official? Come on!
Or that she never allowed information that was “marked classified” to be carried on her emails? Every morning she received a top secret briefing from the CIA and knew exactly what was classified, without any markings on a piece of paper.
So would it be possible for the major TV networks to hire a team of fact-checkers who could quickly provide the public with factual correctives? Perhaps the nightly news shows could devote a 5-minute segment to such factual and impartial perspective.
And major newspapers and wire services should also have such fact-checkers who could provide those writing breaking news with timely insert material that would put wild assertions to the test.
If those reforms were put into effect, without doubt it would markedly improve politicians’ discourse.
The FBI represents another cause for concern. Certainly it should not make public in the last days of an election unassessed assertions that were bound to impact the process. And undisciplined FBI agents should not be allowed to leak half-baked information to the press in the run-up to the vote.
Another unprecedented challenge should deal with the malign efforts of foreign intelligence services hacking the computers of US political operatives and leaking embarrassing stories, through WikiLeaks, to journalists.
Reporters will of course try to check the facts to ensure they were not part of a campaign of misinformation. But do they also have a responsibility to make clear to their readers that actual or suspected origin of the political dirt? And its objectives? Wouldn’t that be part of balanced reporting?
It’s a truism that he who doesn’t learn from his mistakes is bound to repeat them. So, instead, doesn’t it make sense to forthrightly address and correct them?