- By Joseph J. Honick
It was about four years ago that I raised the specter of irrelevance
consuming the U.S., the bastion of hope and freedom in the world, but
also a nation consumed by the human and material costs of two
unwinnable wars and the onset of domestic economic recession. I noted
that we are often at our most vulnerable and confused during
presidential election campaigns.
Nothing has changed that concern.
What has indeed multiplied the reality of our diminished standing is
not so much the expected reality of the campaign but its embarrassing
vulgarity. The “curtain call” for that campaign that saw Republicans
taking the majority of the House of Representatives and a relatively
small Democratic majority in the Senate was the post mortem
declaration of political war against the sitting president by the two
Republican leaders of the two Houses. What was absent was a similar
declaration those Republican leaders wanted to work with the sitting
president to secure the future.
Now as the nation is faced with a presidential campaign whose costs
run to an estimated $5.6 billion and still more tons for local and
state campaigns, the rest of the world looks on in bewilderment.
Every four years, we get a chance to headline candidates who could
focus on means to reestablish confidence in America’s role as world
leaders. Unfortunately, President Obama has not only had to deal with
a Republican campaign that began two years ago but the realities of
his own limited influence here and abroad. His long ago designated
opponent, a one-term state governor and business consultant, Mitt
Romney, has presented little that affords confidence but also raises
questions as to what influences stand behind his efforts.
In short, and in the words of an old, sad song : “Is this all there
is, my friend?”
In the process, and in the eyes of much of the world, we are in a mad
dash to irrelevance, shielded only by our power.
What can and must be done?
For openers, there is a need to “cleanse” the process by which we
choose the most powerful individual in the world to occupy the most
powerful office in the world. Three immediate steps could be taken if
the warring political parties could place the nation before their
1. Limit the campaign period to 90 days following the nominating conventions.
2. Eliminate any funding for political conventions by the Federal
3. Provide public financing of equal portions for both major political
candidates, and prohibit any other funding following nominating
Would this create a perfect world? Of course not. It would evoke the
screams of special interest groups, public relations firms and others
who make tons on the campaigns that these steps would frustrate the
First Amendment of the Constitution.
And I am clearly aware of the Constitutional election prescriptions
that exist, but I also recall that same document permitted Prohibition
and some other oddities until logic prevailed for change.
Those steps would, however, expose those who have little interest in
the good of the country and want only to manipulate the very freedoms
guaranteed in that document.
Until such steps are taken — or others that might be still more
productive — our descent into irrelevance around the world will only be
hastened, as other powers continue to assert themselves.
So what stands in the way of change? It is the same two ingredients
that always impeded progress: lack of courage and leadership.
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Joseph J. Honick is president of GMA International in Bainbridge
Island, Washington. He writes for many publications and can be reached at