I’m a big fan of old movies – the good stuff from the thirties, forties and fifties. For all the visual effects and lavish details of today’s movies they lack the character of those old films, just as today’s movie stars don’t stand up to the likes of Clark Gable, Errol Flynn or John Wayne…

or Jimmy Stewart.

Portland is blessed with an excellent library system, and they have a pretty good selection of classic films on DVD, so once a week or so I’ll pick one up. Apparently, I’m not the only old movie buff, because the shelf selection is usually pretty thin, which means there’s generally only one or two old movies available. This week, when I went in to drop off my ballot, by pure coincidence, it happened to be “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

For those of you unfamiliar with the film, it stars Jimmy Stewart and was directed by Frank Capra. Stewart plays Jefferson Smith, an honest and patriotic, but naive man who is appointed by the machine politicians of his state to fill out the remaining two months of a deceased Senator’s term. Smith/Stewart is chose because the machine politicians feel he will be easy to control and will vote their way on a graft filled appropriations bill from which they will all profit. Smith surprises them when he discovers the graft and wages a one man war in the Senate against his state’s political machine. The machine whips up some fraudulent evidence of corruption against Smith and spreads it around the state via their network of friendly newspapers. Smith is almost expelled from the Senate in disgrace before his state’s other Senator, the man who has been leading the fight against him, has a change of heart, narrowly misses blowing his brains out in the hall outside the Senate chambers and then runs onto the floor of the Senate, confessing all in the inevitable breakdown and act of repentance.

But life isn’t like an old movie, at least not in Oregon. Here, when the machine tries to put one over on the people, they put one over and laugh all the way to the bank. The end justifies the means, except that the end is almost as reprehensible as the means. No law is too clear cut for a judiciary to bend to their desired political outcome, no right so fundamental as not to be subject to abolishment and no law passed by the people above repeal by the legislature by means of lies, deceit, trickery and naked abuse of power. In our politics, the bad guys never fess up, never repent, they just rise to the top of the Democrat party.