Each year as the election cycle approaches a zenith of robocalls, shrieking television ads and mailboxes full of fliers, I get nostalgic. I get nostalgic for a normal workload, because endorsement season for editorial writers is like December for Santa's elves. I get nostalgic for dog food commercials, with their lovable pugs and Boston terriers, because I prefer them to the snarling pit bulls and Rottweilers featured in the campaign commercials that suck up every bit of ad time.
And I get nostalgic for the movie "Bulworth." Warren Beatty and Halle Berry starred in the 1998 cult classic about a politician who, because he believed he was about to be assassinated by a hit man he had hired to do the job, and was badly sleep deprived, began to tell the truth about everything. He became beloved and was instead assassinated by "the establishment" for telling those truths.
I wonder how a knowledgeable politician who told the truth at all times would fare? Could a member of Congress tell the truth:
"I know I've been claiming for years that we have to secure the border first, then deal with the illegals who are already here, but it's time I fessed up. We can't secure the border. Securing the border is a myth. About 40 percent of our undocumented immigrants come in legally and just stay. New York City had 11.4 million international visitors last year: They didn't swim the Rio Grande to get here and we can't make them leave. The real mystery is why anyone pays smugglers $5,000 to bring them in when it's cheaper and easier to just fly to Orlando, take in Disney and Universal for a weekend, then just stay. So, yeah . . . that whole 'fence the border' thing, I just wanted you to like me."
On waste, fraud and abuse?
"Listen, I know I've been saying I'll balance the budget by stopping the waste, fraud and abuse, but if I knew how to do that I wouldn't be running for State Assembly. I'd be running for emperor-for-life, and I'd win. We can't stop waste because the folks who support the wasteful programs (farm subsidies, weapon systems so useless the military doesn't want them, post offices on every corner that people hardly visit) are too powerful. And fraud and abuse are just stealing. Saying I'll stop it is like a police chief saying he'll end car break-ins. Just not possible."
"I've been promising to fix the schools, but they're mostly not broken. It's just that the failing ones serve poor kids who fell so far behind between birth and age 6 that they mostly can't catch up. For them, the hours they spend at school are the safest, most structured parts of their day. They get fed, have heat and air conditioning and deal with adults trying to help them grow and learn. We need kids to stop having babies. We need to ensure a comfortable, stimulating and loving infancy for poor tots. Without that, increasing spending on schools is like setting money on fire."
On Social Security?
"I know I say the system is going broke and benefits will be reduced if we don't do something, but it's a lie. We'll either hike taxes to fix the funding, or borrow more to pay the benefits, because elected officials would rather paper-cut their eyeballs and pour salt under the lids than cut Social Security benefits to seniors. Sorry about all the fearmongering. It seemed like a great idea at the time, and everyone was doing it."
We need candidates who would spit these hot truths. But first we'd need a voting public that would support such honesty. In the movie, Sen. Jay Bulworth got shot. In real life, he would have been labeled a crank, lost his election by 20 points, and been dumped by Halle Berry.
Lane Filler is a member of the Newsday editorial board.