Form a Committee!

Oilman T. Boone Pickens has jumped into the political fray once again. Like many of us, he’s fed up with the current political climate and the dearth of “qualified” candidates for president. So he’s got a revolutionary new idea. We (he?) should put together a “bipartisan screening committee that vets presidential candidates like we do anyone else applying for a job.” Capital idea, T. (Or do you prefer to be called Boone?) As you point out, the current system of picking a leader is more akin to Reality TV than the hallowed system our forefathers envisioned. (Or is it? I’d have to double check but it seems it’s been quite some time since we had politicians literally shooting each other or beating each other with their canes on the floor of Congress.)

But I do have to ask, who gets to serve on this brilliant committee of yours? Who elects the electors, so to speak? And I will assume that, by “recommend” you actually mean “recommend” and that the decisions of this committee are in no way binding on the electorate as a whole so I’ll leave that dystopian thought alone.

And therein lays the rub. Like I said, capital idea. The only thing is, you’re about 227 years too late to the game. Sure, your ideal committee may be considerably smaller than the committee known as the registered voters of the United States, but the fact remains, we have a vetting process. And our vetting process, unlike many other nations, is more thorough than most. We all like to bemoan the seemingly endless campaign season but would a two-week campaign like they have in France, or even a three-month campaign like they recently had in Canada (it’s usually shorter than that) really be preferable? Maybe folks would pay more attention, but I doubt it. If the press and the people can’t properly vet a candidate in two years, I don’t see how they’re going to do it in two months. Politicians are masters at obfuscation and the less time they have to obfuscate the better for them and the worse for us.

And as to your smaller committee, provided its decision is not legally binding, we already have those too. Sure, most of them are not bipartisan the way you call for, but what the heck does “bipartisan” even mean anymore? People tend to coalesce around single issues; tax policy, foreign policy, guns, “family values”, the environment, etc. I’d like to think most of us are intelligent enough not to be single-issue voters but most of us also tend to hold one issue above all others regardless of party. So we join forces and form committees like the League of Women Voters or the Conservative Political Action Committee or the Americans for Tax Reform. Then most of us tend to coalesce around the two biggest committees; the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee.

So maybe I shouldn’t call it such a capital idea after all, Boone. Or perhaps it is best to quote Winston Churchill’s famous line about democracy being “the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Pickens ends his idea with a challenge for readers to come up with something better. What have I got? Well, as Reagan said in his landmark speech of 1964, “there is a simple answer -- not an easy answer -- but simple.” And that answer is education, both in reason and in morality. Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying the founders gave us “a republic, if you can keep it.” John Adams stated that “our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

The apparent decay of our nation rests at no one’s feet but our own. We cannot blame our politicians. We cannot blame the faceless bureaucracy as comforting and convenient as those scapegoats may be. We turn out the first Tuesday of November every year to elect leaders from among us. Any of us can run and because of this “experiment” started more than two centuries ago we alone are responsible not only for the triumphs we face, but also for the failures.

So I agree. Form a committee, but not one to recommend a president. Instead, form a committee to raise our children up with knowledge, wisdom, and morality. Form a committee to help the struggling family buy groceries, then invite them over to your home for Christmas dinner and share something so much more important than food; your table and your love. Form a committee to help the kid struggling with his civics homework and tutor him after school every Tuesday. Form a committee to plant a tree or clean up a park. Form a committee with your neighbors and promise to watch over each other’s homes when you are away. Form a committee to be that shining city on a hill that Christ spoke of in his Sermon on the Mount. Be an example; for change happens not from pontificating and the passage of laws, but from example. We will never legislate our way to peace and prosperity. The only way to reach these hallowed ends is through personal action. We do this, we form not just committees but communities that serve as moral and reasonable examples for the rest, it won’t matter much who our president or other political leaders are for we will be the leaders of our own destinies. And we need not even wait until next November for our election is today.

Mark Griswold is a conservative radio show host and writer and lives in the Seattle area.  His opinions can be read at and heard on Seattle’s AM 1590 The Answer.