It's a Whole New Year

January 01, 1994

It was Benjamin Franklin -- at least, we think it was Franklin; this year we resolve to look these things up, rather than trust to memory -- who exhorted us to self-improvement so that each New Year might find us wiser, more disciplined, virtuous people. TTC Sound advice for these times. As Yogi Berra said: "We have met the enemy and he is us."

In that spirit, we adopt as our words to live by in 1994 the immortal injunction of E.B. White: "Avoid cliches like the plague." White sounds a wake-up call to each and every one of us, and for our part, we will not be found wanting. We hereby consign those stale and often malapropos bromides to Kafka's memory hole.

A look back at the defining moments of the year past confirms that 1993 was, in the words of Walter Cronkite, "a year like all years, filled with the events that alter and illuminate men's lives." In some parts of the world, alas, Orwellian nightmares haunt the landscape. But, as Lord Acton remarked, "Those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it." We believe with Little Orphan Annie that "tomorrow is another day," and with Pogo that "It ain't over till it's over." Life may be no bowl of cherries, but neither is it the pits.

Power, as Santayana pointed out, corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Instead of calculating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, our leaders in Washington should "just do it!" Nineteen ninety-four can be a breakthrough year for the maturing Clinton administration if it will abandon politics as we know it. Otherwise, the giant sucking sound of failure, growing like Topsy, threatens to hurl us back to a moral Stone Age.

Too much inside baseball inside the Beltway sends the wrong message to the body politic. As Baltimore's own Cab Calloway observed, "It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing." In this Janus-faced season of looking back and looking ahead, we must guard equally against the sapping of our social fabric on the one hand, and the rending of our national resolve on the other.

Let the word go forth from this time and place that the handwriting is on the wall for the major players who feed at the public trough. It was, after all, our own H.L. Mencken who pointed out on this page that you can fool all of the people some of the time, but none of the people some of the time.

We hold with Abraham Lincoln that the intelligence of the American people cannot be underestimated! A cautionary admonition comes from Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy, who was on the money with his justly famous rebuke of Oliver Cromwell: "In the bowels of Christ I beseech you: At long last, sir, have you no shame?"

The Bible sagely reminds us that "Tempus fugit." Therefore, Hi-de-Hi-de-Ho and a Happy New Year to all.

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