Thursday, January 21, 2010

Day 21

With its ruling today, the Supreme Court has given a green light to a new stampede of special interest money in our politics. It is a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans. This ruling gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington--while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to support their preferred candidates. That's why I am instructing my Administration to get to work immediately with Congress on this issue. We are going to talk with bipartisan Congressional leaders to develop a forceful response to this decision. The public interest requires nothing less.

Dear Mr. President,

Good luck talking with Congressional leaders about today's Supreme Court decision. I'm in complete agreement with you on this issue, but I have little hope that a congress already so beholden to special interests will be particularly helpful in developing "a forceful response." I think today's ruling would be considerably less effective if large donors were a legitimate political liability for candidates. If being purchased by a company, union or lobby could be more embarrassing and detrimental to a candidate than a sex scandal. I have no problem with politicians who sleep around, unless I'm married to them. I have a considerable problem with politicians who represent special interests and not the voters. Unfortunately, having and affair with a powerful organization will never make quite as many headlines as having an actual affair.

I feel exhausted trying to write this, tonight, but I'm sure it does not begin to rival the exhaustion you feel. Between the arbitrary "one year in office" retrospectives, the election, the supreme court, the economy, and Haiti, I don't know how you haven't collapsed yet. It will get better. It feels like it won't, it feels like we are fighting on too many fronts to prevail, but that must be wrong. At my store, I was chatting with a regular customer and I mentioned you, and she asked me if I still had faith in you. I said that I did, and she cheered out loud. So many of us still have faith in you, sir, don't let our voices get lost in the din. I am struggling to find something meaningful to say, so I will resort to theft. The following is by one of my favorite poets, a Nobel laureate and a woman who survived much darker times.

The Turn of the Century

By Wislawa Szymborska

It was supposed to be better than the others, our 20th century,
But it won't have time to prove it.
Its years are numbered,
its step unsteady,
its breath short.

Already too much has happened
that was not supposed to happen.
What was to come about
has not.

Spring was to be on its way,
and happiness, among other things.

Fear was to leave the mountains and valleys.
The truth was supposed to finish before the lie.

Certain misfortunes
were never to happen again
such as war and hunger and so forth.

These were to be respected:
the defenselessness of the defenseless,
trust and the like.

Whoever wanted to enjoy the world
faces an impossible task.

Stupidity is not funny.
Wisdom isn't jolly.

Is no longer the same young girl
et cetera. Alas.

God was at last to believe in man:
good and strong,
but good and strong
are still two different people.

How to live--someone asked me this in a letter,
someone I had wanted
to ask that very thing.

Again and as always,
and as seen above
there are no questions more urgent
than the naive ones.

I'll end tonight with a naive question, Mr. President. What can I do?

Respectfully yours,



  1. I'm still processing this decision. I should probably go read the actual opinions, but I don't know if I'll get around to it.

    I like the first amendment at least as much as I do the second amendment. But it seems odd to me that we've taken the legal fiction that "a corporation is a person" and extended it the right of free speech. Like I said...I should read the opinion since I have no idea what reasoning they used. I bet the dissenting opinion on this one is going to be good reading, too.

    Although...I feel like in our society money is going to have influence regardless of laws. Seems like a bigger problem than just campaign finance reform....if any of our elected officials had a shred of ethics we wouldn't *need* finance reform. I think you sort of said something along those lines, actually.

    I like the poem.

    Would you rather I not comment on the political content of your letters? It seems sort of out-of-scope to respond to nice letters to the president with comments on today's news.

  2. Oh, not at all! I think it's especially good to hear from people with a different perspective. The fact that you feel as uneasy about this decision as I do makes me hope that the bipartisan talks won't be a complete waste of time. Oh and next week I'm going to clean things up and reformat a bit, then start cross-posting on a (liberal) political site I frequent, so I may get some actual readers for you to argue with.

  3. I hate arguing. Anyway, I've just been picking and choosing the posts that won't get me intro trouble to comment on. :-P Over beer last night my (liberal) buddy told me that I "was the most liberal republican he knows".

    Bipartisan talks are (nearly) always a complete waste of time. The closest we got in recent memory was immigration reform, and only because Ted Kennedy was pushing the talks (I had a lot of respect for him after that). Now that he's gone we're screwed. I don't think any of our sitting Senators have enough respect from both parties to put together a compromise.