Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Whack-A-Mole: The Game of Politics

For $35,000 you can own a Genuine Whac-A-Mole Arcade Game. Or for a lot less money you can play the game the way it is played in Senator Mitch McConnell’s world of politics.

This blog entry is intended to be read with the previous one (Remembering J. David Kuo) in mind. A news story involving Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell broke yesterday providing a clear glimpse into the dark world in which David Kuo had lived and which he described in the memoir he wrote after leaving public service. Kuo’s book Tempting Faith, revealed the extent to which he, and almost everyone around him, allowed their political aspirations and loyalties to overpower their commitment to civility, decency and to the principles of Jesus which many of them professed to believe in.

Jesus taught that there will be a reckoning (a last Judgment) at which all humans will come before the King (Jesus himself) and be found either acceptable or unacceptable. The criteria by which that judgment will be rendered is very straightforward. Those whom the King will approve are those who showed care and compassion to others less fortunate than themselves: 

Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me. 

Likewise those whom the King will reject are those who refused (or neglected) to show care and compassion for the less fortunate: 

Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me. 

Those in the former group were astonished that by doing good for others they had actually been serving the King. They were welcomed into his kingdom. The latter group protested that they had never failed to serve the King when he was in need. The King told them that their lack of concern for others was a lack of concern for him. He dismissed them, barring them from his kingdom with these awful words, “Depart from me; I never knew you.”

Yesterday Mother Jones magazine released a recording of a strategy session in which Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell and his political team were discussing ways to discredit anyone who would oppose the Senator in his bid for reelection next year. The primary opponent (who has since said she will not run for the office) was Ashley Judd.

The Mother Jones tape revealed McConnell telling his aids:  

I assume most of you have played the, the game Whac-A-Mole?” (Laughter.) This is the Whac-A-Mole period of the campaign…when anybody sticks their head up, do them out.

As the meeting progressed, McConnell’s aids played audio and video recordings of Ashley Judd discussing her political philosophy and other subjects, especially her personal struggle with depression. Those at the meeting made jokes about her, ridiculed her comments, and laughed at their own witticisms. Not once did McConnell speak up and say, “This is inappropriate. I’ll not have my staff demeaning another human being in this fashion.” No, he and his aids were preparing to play Whac-A-Mole. If Ashley Judd dared to “stick her head up” they were prepared to “do her out” by what ever means they could devise.

In reading the transcript of the meeting one could come to the conclusion that this was just business as usual in our modern world. And they would be right. As Kuo’s memoir so honestly lays out, business as usual in Washington politics (or politics in almost any other setting these days) is conducted in a nasty, soul smothering environment. Those caught in its web soon see themselves as the defenders of righteousness and their opponents as the epitome of evil. Ridicule, slander, and outright lying are justified because the enemy is so despicable and your side so righteous.

It is revealing to note that McConnell is incensed that his meeting with his political aids was recorded and leaked to Mother Jones. He attributes it to the perfidy of Liberals who will do anything to defeat him. He is enlisting the aid of the FBI to ascertain how the tape was obtained and who leaked it. The odds are pretty good that he was betrayed by some trusted person who was a part of the meeting; someone who is either fed up with hypocrisy or has a grudge against McConnell or someone in his organization.

What is dismaying is the fact that McConnell cannot see his own perfidy; that choosing to “do out” an opponent by any means possible is at least as perfidious as leaking the content of a strategy meeting.  Mr. McConnell should be apologizing to Ashley Judd for the things he allowed to be talked about in his presence. But as David Kuo came to realize, once the end becomes more important than the means, all moral caution is thrown to the wind.

McConnell declares himself a Baptist but doesn’t seem to foreground his religious beliefs. There is no requirement for a politician in the U.S. to be associated with any religion. But the mere fact that he declares himself Baptist at least allows one to assume that, at some level, he is committed to the teachings of Jesus, whom Baptists profess to believe in and follow. If Jesus words are to be taken as meaningful then someday McConnell will stand before the King and hear him say, “As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me.” It should be sobering, even to a callous politician, to realize that ridiculing and demeaning a political opponent is viewed by the King as ridiculing and demeaning Him.

But then, one has to wonder about the content of all closed door political planning sessions. And one has to recall, even if he is not a politician, the contents of his own conversations. As any of us has done unto others, we have done it unto the King.

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