On Memorial Day weekend, scores of thousands of bikers arrived here for their annual Rolling Thunder tribute to America’s veterans, especially those lost in our wars or left behind.
But this year the tribute has been sullied by a squalid scandal in the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Sick vets seeking medical care at the Phoenix VA hospital were put on waiting lists, but never got to see a doctor. Dozens died. Then waiting lists were altered to make it appear that VA staffers had not failed in their duty to provide the vets access to care in the required 14 days. Some vets suffered for months before dying.
There is truly something rotten in the state.
But, rest assured, this scandal of deceit, dishonor and betrayal is not going to go away soon.
For unlike Benghazi and the IRS scandals, the major media are looking into how widespread was this practice of denying care to vets and doctoring waiting lists to lie about what was done, and not done, at the VA hospitals. And as this is both an easily understood and deeply emotional issue, the public is fully engaged.
Our commander in chief wisely used his weekend to visit our troops in Afghanistan. But between Memorial Day and June 6, when the president speaks at Normandy on the 70th anniversary of D-Day, this metastasizing scandal is going to bleed his administration.
And this crisis gripping the second largest Cabinet department underscores a larger truth.
The core belief of liberalism, the political philosophy that has guided the Democratic Party since FDR’s New Deal — that competent, caring, compassionate government is the instrument best suited to addressing America’s social disorders — is being fatally undermined.
The VA hospitals are supposed to represent the best in quality care for those we owe the most. They are America’s example to the world of government-run health care and a single-payer system that liberals have championed for decades.
Does anyone still believe that universal health care modeled on the VA is what we want for America?
Looking around, America’s public sector appears to be everywhere in crisis.
Before the VA scandal we had the rollout of Obamacare, the disastrous results of which were so unanticipated and adverse they could cost the Democratic Party control of the Senate in November.
Democrats point to Social Security and Medicare as the ideal of what a caring, compassionate and competent government can do.
But what has Big Government accomplished lately?
In the new century, we have fought our two longest wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are the results worth the lost blood and treasure?
Or are the results of our interventions the reasons why Americans want to stay out of Syria and Ukraine?
Perhaps the largest of all government programs is education.
Yet despite the trillions of dollars plunged into public education at the local, state and federal levels from the Great Society to No Child Left Behind to Race to the Top, U.S. test scores continue to plummet in international competition and the gap between black and Hispanic and Asian and white continues to persist.
To bring up test scores, we have seen the dumbing down of tests and rampant cheating by principals and teachers erasing and changing answers for students in school districts including D.C. and Atlanta.
Corrupt conduct by those charged with instructing America’s children in the moral superiority of democratic government.
Is not the charter school movement a vote of no confidence in a school system that was once the pride of the nation?
The sub-prime mortgage scandal, which almost plunged us into a second Great Depression, was a product of Big Government.
And despite five trillion in federal deficits under Obama, and a Fed policy of pumping endless trillions into the banks, U.S. growth in the first quarter flatlined, and has been anemic for years.
The bankruptcy of Detroit, the downgrades of public debt in Illinois, Puerto Rico and New Jersey — were they not all caused by the political class that runs state governments?
Yes, there are well-run VA hospitals, outstanding public schools, and state and local governments that are magnets for business. And government has accomplished goals in which all of us take pride.
NASA put our astronauts on the moon. After Pearl Harbor, Washington led America to victory in less than four years. But lately government’s failures seem to outnumber its successes.
Republicans rightly view with alarm demographic trends showing their core constituencies shrinking and the Democrats’ rising.
But Democrats should also take heed. For declining confidence in government’s ability to solve America’s problems, which is likely to be translated into Republican gains in Congress this year, represents a declining faith in the Democratic idea that government is the answer.
In the last century, communism was The God That Failed.
It should be a cause for concern that in the new century the god that appears to be failing is American democracy.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”