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Washington Nationals fans hope starting pitcher phenom Stephen Strasburg will lead the team to greatness.
IF I'VE PUT two and two together correctly, the much younger step-brother of a close friend of mine from high school has just been involved in a national scandal, one involving men behaving badly with hookers and booze. When last I saw him, he was a tow-headed, chubby-cheeked toddler. What happened?
The tawdry scandal has cast a pall over one of the most respected agencies in Washington. We expect our Secret Service agents to be eagle-eyed, level-headed heroes, not boy-men with zipper problems.
But morale and discipline in the agency went into deep decline after 9/11, when it was merged with other law enforcement entities into the newly created Department of Homeland Security. An agent told me then about the stresses imposed by managers who didn't understand the Secret Service culture, and who failed to fight for the funds needed to run the agency well. The fallout of poor leadership is showing up.
But that's not the only case of feds gone wild we have to contend with right now. There's also the GSA scandal: The agency somehow thought it was OK to spend more than $800,000 on a Las Vegas conference for 300 executives featuring clowns and a mind reader, among other things.
GSA is the agency charged with nitpicking travel vouchers, procurement sheets, and leases. Why in the world, with continuing high unemployment and general economic malaise, did they think they could justify this expenditure?
Well, maybe because in
SPENDTHRIFT FIRST FAMILY
For all their talk about how rich Mitt Romney is, the Obamas sure know how to spend our money. Seventeen vacations in a little over three years? Among them: Hawaii, Paris, Martha's Vineyard, Africa, Vail, Aspen, Maine, Spain, and that hushed-up little spring break vacation to Mexico involving 25 Secret Service agents. Of course, the Obamas are so cool we're not supposed to object. We just have to grin and foot the bill.
That's life in America today. Where once Americans valued prudence, frugality, hard work, and humility we're now all about luxury, debt, entitlement, and pride. We chase after pleasure like it's our daily bread. But cheap pleasure has a way of biting us back. And like a diet of junk food, it leaves us ultimately empty inside.
We know this, although we don't admit it. We're empty and we're searching for gods to fill that emptiness, to give us meaning, maybe even happiness. Look at the headlines: Two years ago, the Nationals' Stephen Strasburg was going to save Washington. This year it's Robert Griffin III. Four years ago Barack Obama was the One. (Have the oceans stopped rising yet?)
If it's not a person we hope will fill our souls, it's pleasure: unrestrained sex, booze, alcohol, or even food. Or maybe power. Political power. The kind you can wield in Washington like a machete.
Chuck Colson worshipped well that god. He died recently, and when I re-acquainted myself with his life, I was shocked to be reminded of how cutthroat he was. I was in my early 20s when he, as Nixon's "hatchet man," cooked up schemes that would make Rahm Emanuel blanch. Colson later wrote that he was willing "to be ruthless in getting things done." He was the co-author of Nixon's infamous "enemies list." He tried to hire Teamsters to beat up anti-war protesters. He thought firebombing the Brookings Institution to serve as a diversion to grab leaked documents was a good idea.
Ticked off at John Kerry's anti-war activities, Colson said in a secret memo he had a mission to "destroy the young demagogue before he becomes another Ralph Nader." He had files stolen from a psychiatrist's office in an attempt to discredit anti-war protester Daniel Ellsberg, a dirty trick that ultimately was his downfall. And he was at least peripherally involved in Watergate.
Most people don't realize that Chuck Colson went to prison because he chose not to fight the charges against him. He pleaded guilty and took his punishment, saying that it was "a price I had to pay to complete the shedding of my old life and to be free to live the new."
What had happened? What made this proud man humble himself so profoundly? Someone cared enough about the "evil genius" of the Nixon administration, even in his arrogant, ugly, unrepentant state, to tell him the truth about the real God, and sin, and the way to get right with the Ultimate Judge. Colson became a Christian before prison, and, though at first many doubted his conversion, the next 40 years of his life proved it.
That transformation is what I'd wish for my friend's stepbrother, and for all of the others--the prideful, the arrogant, the licentious, the spendthrifts, the narcissists, the power mongers, the ugly "beautiful people." Because if there was hope for Colson, there's hope for everyone.
Linda J. White is assistant editorial-page editor of The Free Lance-Star.