Rich Galen

Lobbyists who make their living telling Members of the House and Senate they are very excellent, smart, powerful, and good-looking over dinners at exclusive Washington restaurants which, surprisingly, cost exactly $49.99 (drinks, taxes and tip included).

While it is fun to make fun of Congress - especially now that the Democrats are in charge and have yet to figure out a way to blame their low approval ratings on Global Warming - there is no small danger to a society in which 86-percent hold its most important institutions in such low regard.

According to this poll, the "criminal justice system" is at 19-percent, the news media is at about 22-percent, and the Presidency is at 25-percent.

That means Americans have lost faith in the basic underpinnings of American society.

If we were to, God forbid, come under attack which led to a collapse - real or perceived - in the US economy, we would be ripe for a demagogue to rise up promising to fix everything.

We wouldn't believe warnings from the news media (four out of five of us don't believe them now). We would assume the howls coming from Capitol Hill were more of the same self-serving blather we already distrust. And who in the Administration would we turn to for guidance? The President? The Attorney-General?

I don't, for a second, believe that all reporters are evil, that Members of Congress lie, or that the Administration is unswervingly indifferent.

I do believe that part of the problem lies, not in our stars (or, in the case of Lindsay Louhan, our starlets) but in ourselves.

We demand perfection from our institutions. Perfection, as we've discussed before, is a religious ideal. It is not a healthy way to measure daily life.

We allow ourselves to be goaded into painting people as completely good or totally bad; and issues as absolutely right or abhorrently wrong even though anyone over the age of 12 knows that grey is much more common than black and white, and the edges of a discussion are far more often blurry than sharp.

We need real leaders to really lead, not just read the latest polls.

That will go a long way towards restoring confidence.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at