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How Corrupt Are We? My Post-Memo Musings

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

I don’t want to sound cynical. I love my country, and I thank God I was born and raised here in America. There’s a reason people flock to the USA from around the world. There’s a reason the rest of the world follows our lead. We Americans have a lot to be thankful for, and in some significant ways, we are very different than many other nations on the planet, especially when it comes to corruption and graft. But in the aftermath of the release “the memo,” I find myself wondering: Just how corrupt are we? Has our system gotten totally out of control?

I’ve made very few comments on the radio about the memo and, to this point, I’ve written no articles. That’s because there are others with far more insight and expertise on these issues, so I’ve read and listened and learned. Plus, I’m not a political commentator but a social commentator, getting involved in political issues because they intersect with moral issues. 

And that’s what has me concerned with the memo: How much integrity is there in our government system? In our media? In our courts? How confident are we that justice and truth will prevail?

Because I’m not an expert in the inner workings of our government, and because my academic background is not in the fields of law or political science, I find my head spinning when it comes to sorting out which agency is responsible for which decisions and whose authority overlaps with another’s. (Perhaps I’m not the only one who finds this a bit confusing?)

And it’s a bit disconcerting to survey the reactions to the memo from the right and the left, the former saying this is of momentous importance and the latter saying it’s no big deal. And who knows which judges lean to the right or to the left? Who will render a fair verdict if something goes to court?

All of which makes me wonder: Will we ever get to the root of things? Will those guilty be punished? Are they ever punished these days? Or will years go by without clarity ever emerging?

It is scary to think that a salacious (and mendacious) anti-Trump dossier was put together with Clinton money, then details from that false document were leaked to the media, then those media reports were used to get the FISA warrant – if this is the accurate narrative.

If true, is this any better than what takes place in some corrupt, Third World regime? Is this any better than overt bribes to influence the outcome of elections or to secure verdicts from a judge?

And how mired have we become in bureaucratic red tape? How difficult has it become to get anything done without having to jump through endless legal and governmental hoops?

I understand that we’re a nation of 330 million people. I understand that there are procedures to follow. But the more I watch our government in action, the more I see massive inaction. The swamp is even muddier and murkier than we realized.

And that leads to an obvious question: Is it possible to restore limited government? Is it possible to reduce the scope of the labyrinth?

Law professor Gary Lawson wrote, “When the Constitution was sent to the states for ratification in 1787, many citizens worried that the new national government proposed by the document was a Leviathan in waiting. During the crucial New York ratification debate, James Madison, writing as Publius, sought to allay these fears in the 45th Federalist Paper by emphasizing that adoption of the Constitution would create a government of enumerated, and therefore strictly limited, powers. Madison said: ‘The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined... [and] will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce....’.”

Did you catch those words? Many of our founding citizens worried that the new national government proposed by the Constitution “was a Leviathan in waiting.” Ironically, had we adhered to the principles of the Constitution, their fears would not have been realized. Instead, it is by straying from them that Leviathan, depicted in the Bible and ancient Near East as a multi-headed, twisting, fleet serpent, has risen from the depths. Shall we say that Leviathan has raised its heads?

One of the guiding principles of the Stream, for which I write every week, is that, “We need a state strong enough to protect and maintain the rule of law but limited enough not to violate it.” Well said.

In light of our current crisis, with endless charges of corruption and collusion, with the media apparently complicit in the spread of misinformation, and with no end in sight, it’s high time for some pruning. 

Let the dead branches be cut off and let the healthy branches be cut back so they can bear even more good fruit.

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