Gerry Raffertyâ€™s run at the top of the pop music charts in the 70â€™s was far too short lived. Here was a sociological genius masquerading as a musician. Not only that, but he was a pretty good singer, too. While fronting the group â€œStealerâ€™s Wheelâ€ he uttered the now ubiquitous line, â€œClowns to the left of me / Jokers to the right / Here I am / Stuck in the middle with you.â€
Well, old Gerry had the current mess in Washington pegged better than he could have anticipated. Positively prophetic, Iâ€™d say.
First, letâ€™s reflect on the king of the hill, Senator Bill Fristâ€¦
â€œDoggone it, President Bush can do no wrong, he walks on water, his judicial and cabinet nominees are BRILLIANT, I tell ya!â€
And in the quest for fairness, letâ€™s consider the lesser deity, Senator Harry Reidâ€¦
â€œPresident Bushâ€™s nominees are out of the mainstream! Theyâ€™re right-wing radicals designed to turn this country into a theocracy!â€
Lost in the middle are guys like John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Arlen Specter, and George Voinavich.
â€œCâ€™mon, guys, canâ€™t we all just get along? Even we Republicans think some of these nominees are scary.â€
There are nuggets of truth and sanity peppered throughout the folds of this current mess, but it takes a spine of steel to both find them and stand up for them. The truth is that for a guy like me itâ€™s easy to stand on the outside with the spine of steel. For a politician, though, who faces reelection every-so-many years, that spine of steel more often than not resembles a paperclip than an I-beam.
The truth is that President Bush has indeed nominated some real turkeys. John Bolton? Câ€™Mon, gang. The U.N. is all about diplomacy, not head-cracking. As Iâ€™ve watched this guy on C-Span and read some of his answers when questioned by the Senate Foreign Relations committee I just canâ€™t shake the image that he thinks heâ€™s Dirty Harry. I just canâ€™t imagine Dirty Harry having the political delicacy to cut it on the international stage of the U.N.
Then there is our buddy Janice Rogers Brown. Iâ€™m sorry, but the greatness of America in the 20 th century was as much about the FDR legacy of mutual shared sacrifice as it was about wild-west, pull yourself up by your boostraps individualism. When the Dems suggest that she is â€œout of the mainstreamâ€ of American political thought, theyâ€™d be accurate. In fact there are even a number of Republican Senators who have said, left to their own devices, they could not vote for her in good conscience. They have also said, however, that their fear of being branded a â€œtraitorâ€ by the Republican machine has forced them to toe the party line for fear of being upended in a reelection bid. So much for spines of steel.
But Priscilla Owen? Is it really so far out of the mainstream of political thought to say that a kid who is about to get an abortion needs parental consent? This is the most radical dirt people on the left can find on this woman? (Aside from the fact that sheâ€™s buddies with Republican attack dog Karl Rove, that is.)
Say it with me, friendsâ€¦ â€œAre you kidding me?â€
I know none of us wants to admit it, but we were all teenagers once, with acne, angst, and hormones in an uproar. If you are reading this web site you were probably right there with me in making stupid, ill-conceived decisions back in the tumultuous, formative, puberty-infused years of youth. Hey, I managed to get myself arrested when I was 19 years old. Youâ€™d think by that point I would have been old enough to know better. Young enough to be arrogant and think I was invincible? Yes. Old enough to know better? Nah.
So when I think of a teenage girl facing the prospect of abortion or adoption, knowing what I know about the long-term emotional and physical implications of the surgery from first hand friendships with women who have had abortions, you better believe Iâ€™m in favor of parental notification.
So what does that make me? A right-wing nut job out to push the Presidentâ€™s agenda for world domination by a Christian theocracy?
Câ€™Mon! You know me better than that, friends. What it makes me is a father. Letâ€™s spell it togetherâ€¦ F A T H E R. If it were MY daughter who suddenly found herself in such a predicament youâ€™d better believe Iâ€™d want to be right there with her helping her make every decision. My guess is that if you talked to most â€œthoughtfulâ€ Americans, Christian or not, theyâ€™d be appalled at the notion that their teenage daughter would go and get an abortion without their knowledge or advice. So why have we let the debate over these judges become polarized by extremist views on both sides of the argument?
Itâ€™s time for this country, and Christians in specific, to let go of â€œmy way, do or dieâ€ thinking and get back to â€œcreative compromiseâ€ when it comes to contentious issues like court appointments and U.N. ambassadors. It is time for us as a people to realize that, with as many ethnic and religious groups as we have throughout our country, compromise may be the only way to hold the Union together for the long haul.
Of course, it would also help for the President to stop trying to push the envelope with flamingly fringe folks like Brown and Bolton, but I think thatâ€™s too much to hope for. I think this guy has become so enthralled with his own power and â€œpolitical capitalâ€ that the notion he would need to bow to popular sentiment is beyond his limited grasp of world events. If he really cared about his legacy and about the lingering polarization of political thought that he is unleashing upon the American populace he would have pulled both of these nominees earlier and submitted more moderate, more mainstream names, of which I am certain there are hundreds if not thousands waiting in the wings.
So it is left to you, Mr., Mrs, Ms., or Miss NoMoreGreed reader, to take back the middle ground of political thought, to spread the seeds of the realization that compromise is essential in a country comprised of Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, and other religious backgrounds as well as White, Black, Latino, Asian, and other ethnic backgrounds. If we donâ€™t, weâ€™ll be our own worst enemy on the world political stage, charting a fractious and contentious course into a future where the likes of China and India will almost certainly dominate world events.
In the end I want just one thing out of this country. Itâ€™s the same thing the founders wanted when they crafted the Declaration of Independence and, later, the Constitution. I want the freedom to practice my faith, to speak my mind, and to influence my neighbor through dialogue and peaceful discourse. To reclaim that promise it is going to take a vast uprising from the middle to help overcome the strident vitriol of the fringe.
John, Joe, Arlen, and Georgeâ€¦ Repeat after meâ€¦
â€œClowns to the left of me / Jokers to the right / Here I am / Stuck in the middle with you.â€