From the Crow's Nest / Ed Chrostowski
The dilemma of the decade
Media pundits are groping for a catchy alliterative phrase that somehow will cram the essence of the past 10 years into a neat little capsule.
Some have suggested "Decade of Doom," mindful of the terrorist attacks that have been the bookends of the era, the catastrophic fire-bombing of the Twin Towers in 2001 and the failed attempt to blow up a commercial airliner in the final week of 2009. That's too dismal, a defeatist way to characterize an entire decade even if did tear at the nation's heart in an unforgettably brutal manner.
Others have talked of "The Decade of Dreams," but that's delusional even considering the encouraging advances made in medicine and science, as well as the way the collective way the mind of American society has broadened enough to elect a black man president or to accept same-sex marriage.
Decade of Deceit? Too depressing, too derisive, even after Enron, Madoff et al.
But for those who monitor the halls of government, "Decade of Disillusionment" might serve well. Certainly American voters who elected people to public office, confident in their ability and will to lead, have had ample occasion over the past 10 years to feel keenly disappointed.
After terrorists struck the heart of America's economy on Sept. 11, 2001, our then-president promised that the dastardly villains would be apprehended quickly and properly penalized. A few months later, he unfurled a banner that proclaimed "Mission Accomplished." Eight years, thousands of lives and billions of dollars later, Osama Bin Laden is still on the loose and terrorism is unabated.
One of the great subsequent tragedies is our apparent failure to learn much in the interim. On Christmas Day 2009, an attempt to blow up an airliner over Detroit went awry and Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security, commented that "the system worked" and "everything happened as it should have."
Get a grip, Ms. Napolitano. The plot failed not because of the system, but because of the ineptitude of the underwear bomber and his faulty device.
Indeed, if there is a "system" and it had worked, the would-be bomber would not have been on that plane at all. That, for one, is something that happened as it should have not. God knows, there were plenty of advance warnings about the potential dangers this Nigerian man posed, including one from his own father.
Perhaps several of the diverse agencies had bits of information that taken alone were not recognized as threatening, but pieced together would have presented a clear picture of terrorist fanatic bent on violence, death and destruction. Maybe the system doesn't ensure the sharing of information. Maybe the system is still too timid, too afraid of calling a spade a spade, too careful to avoid being accused of racial profiling, to identify this particular enemy as a black Muslim.
Madame Secretary's pronouncement about the system working is reminiscent of the praise ("You're doing a heckuva job, Brownie") heaped on the response of federal emergency relief teams when Katrina shattered New Orleans and its people. Years after flood waters and hurricane winds finally subsided, thousands of people are still suffering. Another government failure.
Meanwhile in Washington, government regulators looked the other way while the economy caved in under a mountain of private indebtedness originating in an unrealistic subprime mortgage market and hyped investments in all kinds of financial gimmicks.
Now, members of Congress trade political favors, tantamount to bribes, to gain each other's support in cobbling together a health-care bill that after all the tinkering hardly resembles significant reform. There's plenty of room in the proposal for honest and productive disagreement and debate. Instead, we get partisan bickering and finger-pointing.
Closer to home, Connecticut's General Assembly has been kicking around a State budget that purports to deal with the growing deficit, but the legislators are really only closing their eyes and crossing their fingers, hoping the "Fiscal Fairy" will work some magic.
Then, too, there was the governor, State treasurer, mayors of two of Connecticut's largest cities and a State Senator who went to jail on various corruption charges during the past decade. And that's not even counting those who got away with it or the assorted politicians who escaped with only a scolding by ethics review boards.
So, yes, this has been a "Decade of Disillusionment" for people who looked to elected officials for leadership. The next one must be a decade of dedication by conscientious officials to regain the confidence of the people and to deserve the support of the voters.