When Chuck Todd's gente asked me to speak about the latest National Security Agency revelation plus how the 2016 presidential Democratic and Republican candidate field is shaping up, I immediately thought, both these stories must stoke the crisis in confidence Americans have in our government and political process.
Polling supports my view. No more than three in ten Americans say they trust the federal government to "do the right thing" most or all of the time, according to the Pew Research Center.
It seems that Edward Snowden, Army Private First Class Bradley Manning, and the scores of military sexual assault victims share these doubts. And this is a question that hasn't been answered: why is an effective system not in place where whistleblowers have confidence that their complaints and concerns about wrongdoing will be addressed and resolved? In the case of Snowden's NSA leaks, the spin from agency and administration officials is that reforms, transparency, and oversight are on the way.
Recent events suggest a bureaucracy with a calcified inertia that forces people to go rogue and hand over classified information to third parties, including media outlets.
Although Snowden's motivation is still elusive to me, is he a narcissist?
Is Manning who leaked secrets to WikiLeaks and was subsequently convicted in military court naive and too trusting of Julian Assange?
How about the men and women who have suffered sexual assault in the military, only to have their complaints dismissed and languish, ensnared in a bureaucracy with a self-preservationist streak stronger than moral values?
Open up the viewfinder and it smacks you in the face: the reforms, the transparency, the oversight are decidedly not happening. I don't know if I trust an individual to do the right thing. But my government? We don't live in corrupt developing countries where nepotism, incompetence, self-interest, and cronyism rule.
Congress can't/won't do its job and pass legislation. Oh, let me autocorrect. The Affordable Care Act passes, the roll out is being delayed. Newt Gingrich at a soul searching GOP pow wow in Boston mistakenly says the Republican party has zero health care ideas. No, it has some good ones such as allowing patients to shop across state lines to find a better deal.
But you don't hear that. You don't hear solutions.
You hear noise: Let's shut down the government to defund Obamacare!
President Obama doesn't emerge unscathed from Republican obstructionism or an inept bureaucracy in the form of the IRS or the NSA run amok. Happening on his watch, his ability to effectively govern and keep us safe is placed in doubt. I am not privy to the intel he receives on national security, i.e. the public safety of millions of Americans. Still, I hope fists are slamming on conference room tables, the White House is trembling from the gritos and Rahm Emanuel-esque F-bombs to force reforms, transparency, and oversight. Our systems--surveillance agencies, the military, Congress--must work. That's how the people's trust is earned.
The NSA surveillance and 2016 presidential wannabes were discussed on MSNBC's The Daily Rundown with guest host Chris Cillizza from the Washington Post's The Fix, The Post's Jackie Kucinich, and NBC Deputy political editor Domenico Montanaro. P.S.: we're all roughly the same age and had so much fun, I forgot we were talking politics!
Click below to watch this segment which was broadcast on August 16, 2013.