PAT NEAL: The day after the disaster

“THE WHOLE COUNTRY is going to hell in a bucket now that we’ve elected those idiots,” my fancy friend shrieked the morning after the election.

“Which idiots?” I asked, pretending to care.

There’s nothing like talking politics to ruin a perfectly beautiful autumn day spent floating down the river catching salmon.

When the sun rises from behind a timbered ridge lighting up the red, yellow and orange leaves of the vine maples above the blue water where a big chrome salmon is jumping across the surface of the river, I generally don’t care about politics.

Maybe it’s because it’s common knowledge that in this great country of ours, there is not one politician at any state, federal or local level that is going to do one thing to preserve our salmon and the ecosystem and the fishing culture of the people who depend on them.

Of course, almost every Washington state politician will claim they are, “going to do something about the fishing,” but this claim is quickly forgotten once they realize the perks of political office.

That’s when the politicians claim they are “for the environment.” Whatever that means.

It generally means directing government agencies to funnel millions of dollars down the bottomless pit of the salmon restoration industry for consultants, non-profit corporations and construction companies that are unable to demonstrate any cost-benefit ratio or accountability for the millions being spent without restoring our salmon.

Politics has always been a nasty business. Aristophanes said it best when he summed up what constitutes a popular politician, “a horrible voice, bad breeding and a vulgar manner.”

The abuse of politicians has become the great American pastime, where we conveniently forget we voted them into office against our own self-interest in the first place and keep them enthroned until they are old and rich.

But if you think we badmouth politicians now, it’s nothing compared to the good old days. George Washington was the father of our country, but he had an enemy list as long as your arm. Fortunately, Washington’s administration occurred in a period of our history when journalists had a command of the English language.

James Thomson Callender, a reporter for The Richmond Recorder, called President Washington, “the grand lama of the federal adoration, in immaculate divinity of Mount Vernon.”

Callender described our second president John Adams as a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force nor firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.” He accused Adams of wanting to crown himself king and said “it would have been best to have President Jefferson beheaded five minutes before his inaugural address.”

Destitute and drunk, Callender was found drowned in three feet of water in the James River in Virginia. Journalism has always been a risky business.

Journalists still use eye-catching headlines to increase sales. And if we have to exaggerate and speculate to educate, so much the better. In this age of misinformation, all news is suspect. However, a big change came to our elections since President Washington.

For way too long, our nation’s corporations were denied the basic rights that were guaranteed to any other citizen under the Constitution. Corporations have feelings, too. They are just like us only bigger and richer.

Fortunately, in 2010, the United States Supreme Court ended discrimination against corporations when they declared that corporations are citizens. So, it only made sense when the same court decided that corporations bribing politicians with buckets of cash is free speech.

At the end of the day, Americans can be proud that we elected the best politicians money can buy.


Pat Neal is a Hoh River fishing and rafting guide and “wilderness gossip columnist” whose column appears here every Wednesday.

He can be reached at 360-683-9867 or by email via

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