Do you have 'faith' in government?

By John Frary | Dec 09, 2009

Forty-five years ago I read a campaign speech by Lyndon Johnson in which he called upon the voters to have "faith" in their government. That is the point at which my dislike for the man turned into loathing.

Two hundred and twenty-one years ago Thomas Jefferson wrote to Edward Carrington that "the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground." He was thinking then of history. History since then has provided continuous support for that axiom.

Of course I believe in government. I believe it is made up of four parts: politicians, civil servants, judges, and a mass of laws, rules, regulations and procedures. And the greatest of these is the fourth.

How many Americans "believe" in politicians? Not many, not now, not ever. In recent years public approval of Congress has sometimes fallen to 14 percent and has rarely risen above 40 percent. Nothing unusual or novel about this. Americans were not scandalized by Mark Twain's jibe: "Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself." Nor were they shocked to hear Will Rogers say "This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer."

Those who manage to shinny up the greasy pole of politics to the presidency almost never fall so low in public esteem as the crowd of congressmammals. Yet liberals, who profess profound devotion to government, have, in my lifetime, regarded most occupants of the White House with disdain, if not alarm.

Most of us have come to view Harry Truman with respect, but when he left office his approval ratings were abysmal.

Eisenhower was regarded as an ineffective bumbler. "An Eisenhower doll-you wind it up and it doesn't do anything for eight years." "The president will not be holding a press conference today. He was unable to read his position papers. His lips are chapped." "Pah, Eisenhower isn't a communist. He's a golfer."

Johnson's popularity fell so low as a result of the Vietnam War that he did not seek re-election. The McGovernites who now dominate the Democratic Party hated him. Remember the chant "Hey, Hey, LBJ, How Many Kids Did You Kill Today?"

Tricky Dick Nixon was held to be a nefarious limb of Satan and escaped office a hop and skip ahead of impeachment.

Jerry Ford was regarded as an ineffective bumbler who had played too many football games without a helmet.

Jimmy Carter? A disastrous president Republicans love to talk about and Democrats scarcely remember.

Ronald Reagan? "An amiable dunce," devoid of real ideas or substance.

Bush I was cast off after a single term, and good riddance.

Bush II? "Chimpy." "Bellicose, moralistic cowboy." "Bush lied and thousands died." Servant of Big Oil. War criminal.

Add this all up and Billy Clinton seems to be the only basis left for belief and faith in the presidency. Seems like a weak and wobbly pedestal on which to elevate the office.

The Civil Service has two parts. Those who deliver actual services - firemen, policemen, combat soldiers, snow plow operators, etc. - tend to be held in high esteem. Bureaucrats, who deal in paper and wield the ultimate power, are not much admired. From the far left we can cite the opinion of Mary McCarthy, "Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism." From the liberals we can cite Eugene McCarthy, "The only thing that saves us from the bureaucracy is its inefficiency." Or Albert Einstein, "Bureaucracy is the death of all sound work." No need to quote conservatives on the subject. Our views are well known.

As for loving a mass of laws, rules, regulations and procedures. Is this even possible? If so, it's a perversion more bizarre than anything recorded in the works of Havelock Ellis, the Marquis de Sade, or Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. As in "masochism."

Professor John Frary of Farmington, Maine is a former congressional candidate and retired history professor, a Board Member of Maine Taxpayers United and an associate editor of the International Military Encyclopedia. and can be reached at:

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