A few nights a week, I run roughly two miles to the White House and experience a brief moment of awe that, despite all that has happened during my time at Georgetown, the white walls still stand—untarnished, opaque, and foreboding. Every so often, I like to remind myself that I live in a city where leaders make decisions that resound further than a few city blocks.
I will be the first to admit that I haven’t paid as much attention to the decisions made within those walls as some of my peers have. What I have paid attention to, however, is the image these leaders have constructed—who it is they wish me to see beyond the walls, rather than who they are within them. Just last week, I found myself lingering in front of the White House as men dressed in orange jumpsuits piled into a makeshift prison in the middle of the sidewalk clutching “Close Guantanamo” signs through the bars, in response to a promise made during Obama’s campaign that will likely go unrealized.
As the 2012 campaigns gear up after a year of political discontent, the presidential candidates have managed to lower the bar even further in attempts to secure the vote. If Rick Perry wasn’t on his way out before, his latest controversy—his defense of a video in which Marines urinate on three Taliban corpses—might seal his political downfall. Perry, who has previously stated that “South Carolina is who picks presidents,” hopes to gain clout in the state which has the highest percentage of military voters among the early primary states. Though Perry takes a firm stance, something the Obama administration has arguably been lacking, his intention is transparent. Sure, winning the votes gets you to a seat within the white walls where the real decisions are made, but winning votes should come as the result of at least feigned integrity.
In his grand defense of the accused Marines, Perry relinquishes them of responsibility for the act—”Eighteen, nineteen-year-old kids make stupid mistakes all too often, and that’s what occurred here.” They might be someone’s kids, and I’ll bet they’re four “kids” Perry can expect to get a vote from, but he’s lost many potential voters in failing to hold the Marines accountable. By coming to the defense of the Marines, Perry’s intentions not only become transparent, but he also holds the nation’s focus on a deplorable event that is best condemned immediately for the sake of our integrity at home and abroad.
It doesn’t come as a big surprise that a year that has witnessed a total shutdown of the government is also a year in which presidential hopefuls will begin to shed their remaining principles in favor of desperation tactics to elicit votes. Although the republican candidates currently comprise much of the slanderous and abhorrent campaigning, the Obama administration has caused a recent stir as well.
The controversy follows the alleged leak of information regarding the 2011 capture and killing of Osama bin Laden to filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, winners of the 2009 Academy Award for The Hurt Locker. Although the Obama administration assures the media that no classified information has been released, the potential leak has nonetheless prompted an investigation by the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King (R-NY). It is obvious that the capture of Osama bin Laden is one of the great successes, if not the greatest success, of the Obama administration, and it is only natural for the triumph to mark his campaign. However, if the film—originally set to be released in October 2012, just before election time—uses classified information obtained through the Obama administration, this would be a gross violation of Obama’s power and the trust of the American people, not to mention a decision that could potentially put the Navy SEALs involved in the operation at risk as well. Of course, this allegation is just that—an allegation, not an indictment.
Though the decisions made by our elected officials within the white walls of the White House, the Pentagon, and Congress are the decisions that will drive us into the future as a country, it is the image and presentation outside the walls that drives us to the ballot box. One can only hope that our candidates regain integrity and accountability in the coming months, as our elected officials are reflections of ourselves. But hell, maybe we’re all just “kids” who don’t know any better.