What would the candidates be promising if they truly cared? In his latest Against the Grain commentary, CBSNews.com's Dick Meyer offers a few ideas.
Political consumers, formerly known as voters, are sitting in a rare position of advantage this fall.
The planets have aligned, according to my calculations, in a way that maximizes the desire of earthling politicians to suck up to the voters this election year.
The confusing dynamic between a scary economy, which helps the Democrats, and a scary world, which helps Republicans, is making incumbents wacko. Add the insecurity redistricting always brings to the malaise that follows the commemoration of 9/11 and the inexplicable popularity of "American Idol" and you can understand why office seekers will do anything for a vote this year.
So I think we ought to "carpe the diem" and present Washington with a list of demands. Here's mine, and because I'm fiscally responsible, it won't cost us taxpayers a penny. I think.
10. Ban Congressional Hearings. There is no greater source of political mischief and they're awful to sit through. Any person capable of sitting through hearings day after day, by definition, is someone you don't want to have any power or influence. They're deviants.
But mostly, if you take away the cameras, you take away the light that political moths genetically seek. The fly around less, and that has to be a good thing.
9. Ban Spam. I know, I know – I write about this all the time. But we must not flinch from fighting evil.
Spam, the techie term for junk e-mail, has been a pox on computer users for years. But in the past couple of months, the sheer quantity of spam has, I believe, increased tenfold. My kids' and colleagues' Internet arteries are fatally clogged with this revolting, cholesterol-laden toxin. Congress could stop it if it wanted. I suggest that purveyors of porn spam be sentenced to mandatory life imprisonment. All other spammers should be fined of all their money and sent to the worst county jails in rural Alabama for at least 10 years.
8. Ban Junk Mail. Might as well get rid of tree-devouring, nuisance snail mail while we're at it.
7. Ban Tolls. Fine, I've written about this one, too. Sue me. Tolls are primitive, frustrating, polluting, random and extremely dangerous. Only sadistic bureaucrats like them and no one likes sadistic bureaucrats. Nuke 'em.
6. Ban Media Use of the Phrase "Hallowed Ground." I do not mean to be disrespectful, but use of this particular cliché has gone over the top. Our research department found that, on 9/11/02 alone, the words "hallowed ground" were used 476,000 times in newspapers, 215,908 times by broadcasters in live shots, 178,285 times by broadcasters in tape pieces, and just twice by accredited Internet journalists.
5. Ban John Ashcroft Press Conferences. The new ban on Congressional hearings does nothing to control press hogs in the executive branch, and Attorney General Ashcroft is the king of them. And most of his announcements are terrifying and barely true. Besides, if Ashcroft can't hold news conferences four times a day, he'll have more time to personally apprehend evil-doers and lead prayer meetings in government buildings.
4. Ban The Five-Day Work Week. Four is plenty. The most grateful group will be parents who work Saturdays dragging their kids to sports and birthday parties and Sundays taking them to religious school, errands and relatives. But I don't see anyone objecting to this obvious reform. With one small piece of legislation, Washington can give us our lives back.
3. Ban SUV's. They pollute, they kill, they block my view, they give the illusion of manual labor and they are the vehicles of Satan. Doonesbury and the Car Talk guys want to get rid of them and that's good enough for me.
2. Ban Elections In Florida. They can't get it right down there and it's a problem. Florida has already given us one accidental president. Now they can't pick a simple candidate for governor. What more has to go wrong before we do something? The Sandy Sunsets Condo Board in Boca Raton should appoint public officials from now on.
1. Ban Starting Wars Between Labor Day and Election Day. I'm all for pandering, but you have to draw the line somewhere, don't you? There may be perfectly good reasons for invading Iraq, but winning a midterm election isn't among them.
I trust you wise readers have better ideas. You know where to send them. Thanks.
Dick Meyer, a veteran political and investigative producer for CBS News, is Editorial Director of CBSNews.com based in Washington.
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Against the Grain
By Dick Meyer
Copyright 2002 CBS. All rights reserved.