Friday, November 20, 2009

Toward a More Civil Government

Toward a More Civil Government

For well over a decade the nation’s government has been scarred by acrimony, distrust, bitterness, and strident partisanship. The result has been a marked decrease in the quality of society. Something needs to be done to reconstruct civility. I have a idea…

What if all politicians – both candidates and holders of elective office at all levels – were required to spark a j and mellow out before any public appearance or meeting? No longer would speeches be interrupted by angry shouts of “You Lie!” At worst, there would be giggles and “Love ya, Bro.” The Capitol dining room could quit serving Senate Bean Soup and just put out bushel baskets of Kit Kats and every flavor of Doritos. Think of the difference in senators’ opening statements in committee hearings. They would still be long and rambling, but they would not be harsh, self-serving and untruthful.

The work would still get done. The pols don’t trouble themselves with the details anyway. All the work is done by staffers and attorneys, who would still have to stay sober during work hours. Committee meetings and debates would still be lively, but less rancorous. The risk would be that they could degenerate into food fights. Probably the Democrats should be limited to Ho-Hos and the Republicans to Twinkies so the television cameras could keep things straight. (I originally assigned the snacks arbitrarily, but if someone wants to assign symbolic values to them, that is The Reader’s choice.)

When I first broached this idea, one colleague objected on the grounds that susceptibility to marijuana is genetic and some people would not mellow out. But that’s actually another ground for insisting that candidates toke up in public. What better way is there to exclude congenital curmudgeons and eternal pessimists from positions in which their nay-saying can create major harms?

What is sauce for the congresscritter should probably be applied to those testifying in committee as well. The O.S.S. was testing weed as a truth drug as early as the 1940s. Anyone who has been there knows how hard it is to tell a convincing lie while wasted. Turning a witness on should be at least as effective as making them swear to tell the truth. The problem would be that the truth would be buried under an endless stream of babble. Imagine three wasted automotive executives trying to explain why they flew three private jets to Washington so that they could ask congress for money to help their broke companies.

If congress is mellow, so should be the broadcast political commentators who talk about them. A mellow Bill O’Reilly might make more sense, but the world may not be ready for a stoned Glen Beck. The Limburger could be more believable if grass were substituted for his Oxy. Who would be liable if a wacked Lou Dobbs tried a faint smile and his face shattered into a thousand granite shards? Keith Olberman? I suspect he is already following the program at least part of the time.

The rule would have to include Sunday morning talk shows – hosts, guests, and panelists. The schedule for these shows would have to be extended to accommodate the much more drawn out questions and answers, but they don’t have much competition in those time slots anyway. The panelists present a different problem. My mind boggles at even the idea of a giggling George Will. Perhaps if that frozen-in-place hair were a little mussed and that little bow tie somewhat askew (and who can tie one of those damn things anyway?), a real human might emerge from that bloodless automaton.

This kind of radical change could cause social and economic changes as well. Recent studies indicate that increased marijuana use is coupled with decreased alcohol use. If the Washington power class becomes a stoner caste, what will happen to their booze consumption – now at astronomical levels? Will the top-tier watering holes become taco stands? Will Jack Daniel have to ask for a federal subsidy to avoid bankruptcy? Will K Street become the world’s largest AA group?

If the plan works for the political side of government, perhaps it can also be applied to parts of the administration. The top administrators of the DEA and ONDCP need to be more familiar with the subject matter of their jobs if they are to do them well. As soon as they are confirmed, these top people should be put through a training program in which they experience recreation-level doses of at least the four most common drugs subject to their administration: marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and the amphetamines. These doses should probably be administered over the course of a month to avoid the shock that a more concentrated introduction would cause. These people don’t have the resiliency of teenagers any more.

The training for working DEA agents should be more intense, including at least some of the psychedelics. This training should help to weed out the inherently paranoid and overly suspicious, resulting in a more compassionate and cooperative force. One beneficial side effect could be substantial revenue to the government. Just imagine the earnings of that new reality tv show: “Narcs on Acid.”

Okay, you’re right. This is just a pipe dream. But I think I’ll hold on to the fantasy just a bit longer. As Axl Rose told us, when you’re high, “you never ever wanna come down, come, down, come do-ow-ow-own!

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