As a journalist, I’m used to being pushed around in the polls. It’s OK. I know you don’t like us much. You have doubts about the media’s integrity, trustworthiness and honesty, and frankly there are times when I do too. When I want to say, “Move over. Make some room on that pew for me.”
Yet the good folks at Gallup have given my profession an early holiday gift that is lifting spirits in newsrooms coast to coast. A new poll shows that you, the public, consider members of Congress much less trustworthy than journalists. The House crowd was already in the ethics ICU, but now they are practically in need of life support.
Among the professions Gallup tested, nurses were the most trusted. Doctors, police officers and clergy also took predictably high slots. But then comes the bad news for the legislative bunch. Bankers, lawyers, advertising types, even insurance salespeople and stock brokers are rated as more ethical. Congress members are down in the basement near HMO operators and car salesmen.
This disapproval number has been steadily rising for years, and Gallup says it is now more than twice as high as it was back in 2000. The reasons are embarrassingly obvious: Scandals, gridlock, endless political sniping and pursuit of ridiculous legislation ... like, uh, forcing a national college football playoff. What is harder to explain is how Congress has such a hard time grasping this concept.
A few months back Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri was at an uproarious town hall meeting. As the crowd seethed and shouted, she asked, “You don’t trust me?” They roared back, “No!” And she responded, “I don’t know what else I can do.”
Really? I suspect everyone except Congress knows what can be done to rebuild trust. Lawmakers could start working together a bit more, quit excusing each other’s misdeeds and get serious about solving the many issues that are facing the country right now, offering voters fair and even-handed explanations of what’s on the table, instead of spin. Ha! Just kidding. While that would undoubtedly give them better numbers, it’s about as likely as Harry Reid kayaking down the Hudson with a Christmas fruit basket for Dick Cheney. Trust me.
– CNN’s Tom Foreman is a regular on “AC360 ”/www.ac360.com and “Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull.”
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