Gromotka: Iraq, Ernst, and the cost of empty rhetoric

BY ADAM GROMOTKA | JUNE 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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A customer at work asked me: “Adam, have you been keeping up with what’s happening in Iraq?”

The short answer is yes. The full answer is much longer and much more concerning. As the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria continues to produce graphic images of carnage, destruction, and executions, it’s becoming clearer that the nature of American politics, the necessity of producing and following through on dramatic, empty promises, is the culprit behind the violence.

After the tragedies on 9/11, then-President George W. Bush suited up in an Air Force jump suit and led a hasty, headlong charge toward the Bad Guys. While the campaign eventually cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of American lives — not to mention massive destruction overseas that’s still being tallied — it did boost Bush’s approval rating to astronomically high numbers, exceeding 85 percent during the initial phases of the conflict. In a time when our country was scared and confused, our cowboy hero cleared the fog and promised to defend us from the Terror, and 7-year-old Adam was totally on board — a real-life good-versus-evil story, Hollywood stuff.

The civil conflict ripping through Iraq is not simply the result of an expensive and poorly designed plan — spanning the space of two double-term presidents — flopping. Every execution that rattles the police force we helped shape is a monument to the consequence of empty rhetoric falling in on itself. Whatever color sticker you put on your bumper during election season, the destruction that occurs when politicians run their mouths to boost their support should fill your spine with fear.

But you don’t have to look beyond our borders to see pointless PR-focused jabbering in action. You can stay in Iowa for that. Joni Ernst’s popularity from her promise to cut pork allowed her to run train on other Senate candidates during the primaries. Her opponents, who had much more drab commercials, were absolutely demolished, muscled into submission with ease as she blasted past the required 35 percent to win.

People initially believed her promise meant she would figuratively “cut pork” on Capitol Hill, a double entendre claiming that she had trial and would continue to try limiting monetary spending by the government.

After analyzing her track record in Iowa, critics began crying foul. According to an advertisement released endorsing Rep. Bruce Braley — Ernst’s Democratic opponent come November — Ernst wrote zero proposed measures to cut spending. Ernst fought back by explaining that she never mentioned cutting legislative spending in her famous commercial. Rather, she meant that the time she spent working with literal pigs would translate to the skills necessary to aid in decision-making on Capitol Hill.

Iowa has been duped. I want to give Ernst the benefit of the doubt, assume that she’ll do her best to operate in the interest of the masses. But I can’t find the bravery to do so. History is repeating itself rapidly, and the cycle is getting faster and faster. The mire in Washington — the place money and ethics go to be swallowed up by gunk — is the result of the bubbling and bursting of empty rhetoric on a massive scale. It won’t take long for political jargon to fill the atmosphere. We’ll surely suffocate.

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