Iran scandal no reason for Democrats to gloat

There’s a debate these days in the upper echelons of intelligentsia as to whether or not Democrats should gloat over the Reagan administration’s current troubles. It takes a certain type of person to even sit back and think about such things in the middle of a national crisis. Such a person thinks of politics as a game, and political intrigue as the highest form of the game. Sort of like Monopoly or Battleship.

Now, I’m not condoning this sort of trivialization of politics. But for a columnist, it’s an essential tool. So I’ve been giving a lot of thought to whether I, personally, should gloat about the Reagan administration’s shenanigans. It’s something of a moral dilemma, or so it’s been made out to be by guys who sit around and yap on shows like Washington Week in Review, Crossfire and Firing Line. What should I, as a human being, and something of a strong partisan, conclude?

The argument against gloating is put forward by every single Republican, alive or dead. It is also endorsed by some of the more dour Democrats (the ones who are making responsible statements instead of hiding in their offices gloating and figuring how to make political points for themselves from all this). Essentially, we must think first about preserving the office of the president. We must think about the good of the country, not our own selfish interests.

The argument for gloating has been taken up heartily only by the New Republic and a few bold liberals who have cast caution to the wind. They say that we are political animals, and it would be unnatural for us not to take pleasure and profit from an opponent’s foolery. Besides, if it were the Democrats in trouble, Republicans would never be so noble. They’d be even more vicious, nasty and condescending than they’ve already shown themselves to be in the last six years, the boors.

As for me, I don’t agree completely with either side. As far as I know, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. is the only person who’s been able to deal with this matter both with a sense of humor and a sense of seriousness. The best approach is to gloat mildly and to believe that the final crippling of this lame dusk presidency is for the good of the country. Such crippling will not lead to a general atrophication of the entire institution of president.

After all, look at what Reagan has managed to do at full force. He’s bungled foreign policy at every turn, made a mockery of our stand on terrorism, put the country so in hock that we may never see the light again, helped to irreversibly change the nature of our industrial and agricultural bases, and made people all over the world wonder if the United States will ever produce a great leader again. We could use two years of relative peace and safety after that.

Conclusion: we might as well laugh and cry. And we can always hope that the next two years will prove uneventful, even downright boring. Such a situation has occured before with no ill effects. Just think of the Ford years. America needed a break from big, scandalous, frightening stories about how their government had failed them. It needed time to think about what went wrong. After we get done gloating or being dour, after as much information comes out as is going to come out, we need to think about that again.

Is there something wrong with our presidential selection process? Is the media era to blame for glamourizing style over substance? Are the schools to blame for not educating us to better select our representatives, or does government, in some other way, encourage the wrong people to get to the top? No one can now characterize the last four presidencies as great. When everything dies down, we need to reasess our priorities and use that reassessment to choose our next president more wisely.

Laurie Johnson