I posted recently on how one of my biggest problems with the drug policy of most governments is that they are based on lies. I think this is the same problem with politics. Everybody knows politicians are lying. Everybody knows politicians don't believe most of their own public pronouncements. All they're doing is saying what they think will appeal to people so they can go ahead with whatever it is they want to do. They're playing politics.
And then there are the "gotcha" moments. You catch Bush out in a lie. Another Kennedy goes drunk driving. Cheney shoots someone in the face. In short, your opponent does something that, according to the rules of the political game, you can get them on. It doesn't matter that the "gotcha" may not actually be important. It may have nothing to do with the political process, it may not reflect on your opponent's performance or their ability to do the job.
But it's an opening dammit! Who cares if it's trivial? Let's make them look bad so that we, by comparison, look good. It's far easier than doing something that's actually good. A recent example in Australia was the revelation that the Australian Wheat Board (AWB) paid around $300 million in bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime in order to be able to sell wheat in Iraq. This was, of course, before the invasion and such bribes were a breach of UN sanctions. Oh, and they were bribes. Paid to a psychotic to whom we were publicly opposed. I think Uday owned the trucking company that scored most of the swag.
And it's a total non-story. Every company and government involved in any transaction was paying bribes. Halliburton seems to be funneling away billions to who knows where. And this $300 million was Australian money, which means it's worth about $7.50 in American money. Or a handful of shiny beads.
But the opposition party (Labor - our equivalent to the US Democrats) went on and on about how outraged they were that this happened and spent ages trying pin down whether any government ministers could be proved to have explicit knowledge of what was going on. Everybody knows Labor didn't really give a shit - exactly the same would have happened if they were in power. All in all it was a good thing - those bribes allowed billions of dollars worth of wheat to be sold to Iraq. God forbid people should end up with food.
It's simple: of course the Prime Minister knew and of course the Foreign Minister knew. $300 million isn't a line item that can be made to vanish in Australian accounting. It might not even be noticed in a real economy but even a cursory glance at the books here would reveal it. But you're never going to prove it.
So what's the end result of all this sound and fury? Nothing. It never caught on in the public mind. Then we had a miracle rescue of some trapped miners and everybody has well and truly forgotten about the AWB. The political process is cheapened again and everybody gets a little more cynical.
I didn't know how I was going to end this post at first, then I read this article on Salon.com. There are some people who aren't ignoring what's going on in the political process. There are some people who are fervently intent on bending it to their way of thinking and damn what anybody else wants. And those of us who stay cynically detatched from the meaningless political games might wake up one day to a nasty surprise.