Friday, September 11, 2009

The End of an Era

The phrase "statesmanly conduct" came to mind recently, most notably because of the lack of it in the current brouhaha over health care. I looked up the word "statesman" and a few others that seemed relevant:

statesman: a person who exhibits great wisdom and ability in directing the affairs of a government or in dealing with important public issues.

statesmanship: the ability, qualifications, or practice of a statesman; wisdom and skill in the management of public affairs.

respect: to hold in esteem or honor; to show regard or consideration for

It becomes more and more evident to me that the art of statesmanship in the Congress may well have died with Teddy Kennedy. Teddy was not perfect; he was quite fallible and made some very public mistakes. But one thing that characterized his work in the Senate was his statesmanship: he could disagree with someone about an issue, but he was never disrespectful. He might challenge a colleague in debate, but as far as I know, he didn't resort to disparaging their character, their heritage, or their love of this country.

He collaborated, negotiated, cajoled, pushed, pulled, and, above all, he persisted. According to other members of the Senate who spoke after his passing, Teddy didn't sink to the level of open contempt, arrogance, and disrespect that seems to characterize the behavior of many of the people's representatives in Washington these days.

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I looked up a few other words, too:

disrespect: lack of respect; discourtesy; rudeness; to regard or treat without respect; regard or treat with contempt or rudeness

play politics: to engage in political intrigue, take advantage of a political situation or issue, resort to partisan politics, etc.; exploit a political system or political relationships; to deal with people in an opportunistic, manipulative, or devious way

As Bette Davis said in All About Eve, you'd better buckle your seatbelts, folks, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

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