Blowing in the Wind

It's been three weeks since armed Federal officers broke into a private home at 5:00 a.m., beat down the door, shoved reporters into the dirt, gassed the crowds, and seized an innocent child -- all without a proper court order, in the grossest abuse of government power I've ever witnessed. So gross, in fact, that two liberal constitutional scholars, professors Laurence Tribe and Alan Dershowitz of Harvard declared the action unconstitutional. The public was outraged, and congressional leaders announced they would immediately hold hearings. But then, after a few days, it was announced that the hearings would be delayed. And now, apparently, they've been shelved completely. Why? Doesn't Congress have an oversight responsibility when the Executive Branch exceeds its constitutional power and shreds our Fourth Amendment protection? Well, something intervened, and that something is called "polls." Polls today give us, not just opinion, but marching orders. Politicians read them, and act accordingly, unwilling to offend the majority before an election. But how accurate are the polls in the first place? Most people say they've never been called, and neither has anyone they know. The fact is, most of us have answering machines these days, and Caller ID. People don't answer the phone for just anybody, and they don't waste time talking to people who say they're poll-takers and often are simply telemarketers. The polls aren't random. Instead, they're getting information from a small group that doesn't screen calls and who will talk to anyone. I wonder if it's the wide sampling that pollsters claim. In the Gonzalez case the polls were confusing. ABC said 50 percent thought the government did the right thing, while NBC News reported that 58 percent did. At the same time, ABC said 45 percent disagreed, but NBC's poll showed 30 percent disagreeing. That's a huge difference -- far beyond the margin of error. Congressional leaders were told that if they went after the facts in this case, the public would turn against them. It would appear they were on a crusade against the Clinton Administration. So they ran for political cover, and accepted the dodge of the Justice Department that key documents were not available. To anyone who cares about the Constitution, it was an abandonment of responsibility not to get to the bottom of this issue -- and running the other way, simply because the polls might go against them, only made matters worse. The Founders created for us a republic in which we elect people that we trust to make informed decisions based on the issues. The Founders rejected direct democracy -- they called it mob rule. But what would really have horrified the Founders is the thought that we have created a government of the polls, by the polls, and for the polls. Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz was right when he said, "This is a dangerous day for all Americans." Maybe you remember another famous pollster who asked: "Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Christ?" The crowd was unanimous in their reply to Pilate. "Barabbas," they shouted, freeing the robber and killing the Messiah. Even when polls are numerically accurate and in complete agreement, they can still be dead wrong. The break-in to seize Elian is just such a case. And if there's any sense of outrage left in our nation, people are going to let their legislators know exactly what they think.


Chuck Colson



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