With Europeans intrigued by America’s unexpected success, Alexis de Tocqueville carried out an in-depth study of the new nation in the 1830s. He was quite impressed with our divided government, which featured the separation of powers.
This structure made it difficult for any one branch – executive, judicial or legislative – to acquire too much power and run roughshod over the other branches and the will of the American people. Unfortunately, today we are witnessing a largely unchecked executive branch issuing decrees that circumvent Congress while facing only tepid resistance.
In civilian life, when a contract is entered into by two parties, and it is subsequently discovered that one side knowingly presented false promises in order to consummate the deal, a legitimate lawsuit can be initiated on the basis of fraud. The Affordable Care Act is a prime example of such a contract in the form of a bill, which never would have been passed if it had been revealed that millions of people would lose the health insurance with which they were satisfied and that they might not be able to keep their doctors, among other promises.
Nevertheless, this massive case of fraud has not been legally challenged by the legislative branch, leaving one to wonder why.
We hear a great deal about “Chicago-style politics.” It is nothing more than a euphemism for political corruption, including bullying, blackmail and bribery. These pressures can be just as easily applied to national political figures as to local politicians.
Courage can be quite difficult to find when the threat of exposure hangs over one’s head. In an age when Big Brother is capable of watching everything we do, it is not hard to imagine a scenario in which large numbers of public servants are silenced or subdued by secretive threats.
I have had an opportunity to witness firsthand how the blackmail threat operates. Several years ago, while I was in the operating room, I received a call from one of the legal offices at Johns Hopkins University informing me that the state of Florida was trying to attach my wages for child support.
I was shocked at such an allegation and informed them that I have three children, which I already support very ably. They said a woman in Florida was accusing me of being the father of her son, and that she had proof of our relationship. The proof turned out to be knowledge of where I went to high school, college and medical school, and where I served my internship and residency. To top all of that off, she had a picture of me in scrubs. I said anyone could obtain such information. However, the paternity suit was pursued, and I had to involve my personal lawyer.
As the case advanced, I was asked to provide a blood specimen to facilitate DNA testing. I refused on the basis of the incompetence of any governmental agency that was willing to pursue a paternity suit on such flimsy grounds. I said that level of incompetence would probably result in my blood specimen being found at a murder scene and my spending the rest of my life in prison.
Shortly thereafter, the suit was dropped with no further ramifications. I’m virtually certain that the woman in Florida erroneously assumed that someone who travels as much as I do was engaging in numerous extramarital affairs and wouldn’t even remember all of the parties with whom they had been involved. Under such circumstances, she assumed I would be willing to fork over the money to avoid public embarrassment.
What she didn’t know is that I did not have to scratch my head and try to remember which affair she represented because I know that the only woman I have ever slept with in my life is my wife. Even if that had not been the case, I think confession and dealing with the consequences would have been the best course of action.
In the early history of America, Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton was seduced by the wife of a political enemy with the intention of blackmailing him into complying with their wishes. Hamilton publicly confessed his transgression, and the public forgave him, completely thwarting the plans of his adversaries.
I think the American people are just as forgiving today if people are willing to be honest. With so much at stake regarding our country’s future, I think now would be an excellent time to come clean for all national public figures who have been threatened by Chicago-style politics or who know that there are skeletons in their closets.
If it were all done in a short time span, the media would be overwhelmed, and the people would quickly understand the extent of the disgusting and dishonest practices infesting the highest levels of government.
Importantly, our public officials would be able to act with courage and conviction to rectify the corrupt practices that are all too readily ignored and that threaten the moral fabric of our nation. I am confident that the American people would be both forgiving and grateful for the willingness of public figures to take a risk to preserve the American way of life.
• Ben S. Carson is professor emeritus of neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University.