It was Prince Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, conservative Prussian statesman of the 1800s, who observed, “Politics is the art of the possible.” He also said, “Politics is not an exact science.”
But another of his quotes that resonates these many decades later is, “Not by speeches and votes of the majority are the great questions of the time decided.” That isn’t the complete statement — it ends, “but by iron and blood”— however, the first part pretty much sums up the reality that is overlooked in all the bombast in the circus that is the preliminaries to this year’s presidential election: Talk is one thing, making it happen is another.
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The nitty-gritty is that despite all the promises, the high-flown rhetoric, the sound bites and one-liners, whoever ends up taking the oath of office as president next January will inherit the leadership of a government that has, for more than a decade, been incapable of accomplishing little, with prospects of not much improvement during his/her years in office.
However bright a picture is painted by the promises on both sides of the presidential wannabe roster, the reality is still that “a president proposes, Congress disposes.” And we know how woefully little that august body has accomplished in the last three terms or more. That the situation will be appreciably better — given a hemorrhaging Treasury and declining tax revenues, an aging national infrastructure that’s so badly deteriorated it will take years and countless billions to make a dent in the neglect, a health care/entitlements system that threatens to gobble up more and more of the GNP (or go bankrupt), and interest payments on a massive government debt that, like Topsy, just grows and grows — under the next president is likely wishful thinking, given the rancor and uncooperativeness that characterize the Congress.
The statesmen of yore, who worked out their differences (perhaps with some back room arm twisting) and got things done for the betterment of all the country, not just for their own self-aggrandizement, seem woefully absent in the dog-eat-dog arena of today’s politics.
The snarky debates, caucuses, rallies, and interminable TV attack ads by special interest groups, are political theater — a bubble just waiting to pop when post-election reality sets in.