Column Date 2008-09-07

All hail the great American kakistocracy!

We finally did it.

After years of trying, the United States has become one of history's great kakistocracies.

Oh, wait – you're not exactly sure what a kakistocracy is?

Well, according to the American Heritage Dictionary, "kakistocracy" is a word of Greek origin which means "government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens."

We should have seen it coming.

Our "kakistocrats" are responsible for the disappearance of billions of dollars of cash in Iraq, as yet unaccounted for.

For sending our troops into harm's way without proper body armor or mine-resistant Humvees.

For putting industry lobbyists in charge of regulating their own industries, and writing their own regulatory rules.

For creating public relations campaigns for completely fictional events ("Mission Accomplished," the "Clean Air Bill," etc.)

As well as for the heartwarming sight of Washington's oilmen/politicians making their fellow oilmen richer than Croesus, while ordinary Americans struggle to buy gas and pay medical bills.

But I think we broke new ground last week when John McCain plucked one of the country's most obscure, inexperienced politicians from Alaska and made her his running mate.

No, this has nothing to do with sex – it has everything to do with competence, experience and qualifications to be the Vice-President of the United States. And possibly President in an emergency.

I'd say the same if he had randomly chosen, say, someone like Republican Governor Mike Rounds of South Dakota, population 782,000. (Roughly the same population as Alaska, which is, of course, about 50% of the population of the Bronx.)

Governor Rounds, a good-looking guy by the way, would be a great fit as McCain's VP.

His qualifications include pushing his state legislature to pass the strongest anti-abortion bill in America. And, during that same legislative session, he was a maverick with a vision to expand liquor sales in South Dakota which, among other things, would benefit his family members. (The bill was proposed by Jamison Rounds, the governor's brother, who wanted to open a distillery, and backed by another brother, Representative Tim Rounds.)

The largest newspaper in South Dakota, the Argus Leader, called these shenanigans "ethically confused."

If this is a new direction for America, these politicians must be directionally challenged.

So -- are you going to stand up and say something about this new American kakistocracy?

Or are you going to be like some of those ancient Athenians – citizens who did not speak up and present their points of view in the assembly?

The Greeks had a word for them: "idiotai."

©2008 Peter Tannen