Normally your mail comes well in advance of Christmas when tiny tots, many unable to sleep in anticipation of the coming morning, and even a few aging adults send wish lists for presents in celebration of this joyous holiday. This letter however isn't one you would normally expect to receive because it is a reprimand and a serious one at that.
You have let us down once again. And the reasons are simple. Peace on Earth and all the trappings require far more than all the toys, clothing and designer gifties that make Christmas morning so popular. You could bring instead three far more important gifts and ensure that they are delivered to the proper places.
These gifts are neither material nor stocked in most shops, no matter how prestigious. They are truth, accountability and common sense. And without your intervention, none will end up under Christmas trees or in stockings hung by fireplaces anywhere around the world.
Truth is among the greatest gifts. Yes, to some non-believers, the truth is stretched a bit this time of year but in a good cause. But when truth becomes the first casualty in society, that society is in trouble. In most democracies, people are entitled to their own opinions no matter how cuckoo. They aren't allowed their own facts to manufacture truth from fiction or falsehood.
Second, accountability would make a nice but not necessarily popular gift. For example, you are held accountable for bringing joy to billions. If that didn't happen or was perceived as not happening, perhaps your sainthood would be revoked. Surely to the young, your reputation would be in tatters and no doubt chimneys and other access points for bringing yuletide joy would be shuttered or even booby-trapped.
The third great gift you could deliver is common sense. It is amazing how far a little common sense would go in bringing joy to all. Suppose for argument's sake, early this morning you had delivered these gifts to three people in particular in Washington: the president, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the majority leader of the Senate. Would they be well received? Or would they be returned to sender?
Sadly, there is little truth today in Washington. Indeed, truth is now among nature's rarest elements. Take three items of some importance to Americans: healthcare, the budget and entitlement programs. Truth, accountability and common sense are surely missing in action. Regardless of how each of these three leaders are portrayed by allies and enemies in the media and, of course, that most compelling of media cable news, each no doubt is a "good" person anxious to do the best he can for the nation and for his constituents. But things don't always work out that way.
U.S. President Barack Obama promised the nation that no one would lose their insurance policies under the Affordable Health Care Act. That wasn't true.
No one was held accountable for dereliction of duty or incompetence by or in Congress or the executive branch for fiascoes ranging from making war in Iraq over weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist; failing to deal with the most pressing crises over fixing perpetually unbalanced budgets, uncontrollable cost growth in entitlement and other government programs; and a rollout of the new healthcare act that would have had phalanxes of chairmen and chief executive officers fired for cause if that happened in business.
As for common sense, that gift has been consigned to novels and fiction and I am told banned for a radius of 50 miles from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Now as far as truth is concerned, it is certainly true that not all of the arguments and sound bites used by both Republicans and Democrats in attack or defense are entirely false. The tragedy is that while the "truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" may still bring charges of perjury in a court of law, in politics each is a mere inconvenience.
So here is an alternative gift you may consider employing your elves on a feverish basis for giving next year if truth, accountability and common sense are too unwieldy to fit in your sled or risk rejection by recipients. On Christmas Eve, the president and both (or all) leaders of Congress must dine together in a locked room that won't be opened until they agree to a political agenda for the coming year and guarantee that each will do his best to execute that agenda. And if they don't make it out by New Year's Day, the key should be thrown away.
I look forward to next Christmas with great anticipation!
(Harlan Ullman is chairman of the Killowen Group, which advises leaders of government and business, and senior adviser at Washington's Atlantic Council and a former adviser to St. Nick.)
(United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.)
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