Wednesday, September 14, 2005 | We have a world of problems, but we seem unable to get a handle on them. That is not an excuse to make up solutions. Solutions require thinking, but that’s about the last thing we think of.

San Diego is in a mess with one mayor down plus three city council members indicted and two of them convicted for fraud. The city has unfunded pension obligations of more money than most people can count.

So, what excites the public? That cross on Mount Soledad, that’s what. And the politicians know it. Using much more money than we have, our city is fighting the repeated decisions of the courts to keep it there.

And urging them on are a group of proud and professed Christians. Unless they are kicked from their churches just as a couple of them have been ousted from their posts as elected officials.

Duke Cunningham was the golden boy of the faithful for a while. He had sneaked a provision into another bill giving the cross to the Department of Interior. All for free! How nice. A congressman gives away city property without a hearing or anything. Not that any other elected official would demur. All of them run away from issues like this, no matter what the consequences. We ought to be ashamed of them, or maybe we ought to stop electing them.

We won’t have to stop electing the Duke though. His walls came tumbling down after a local paper exposed some of the most fetid real estate deals in recent history. Every week brings new charges of corruption for the guy. Of course, once he gets his own talk show his financial worries will be over.

We have a lot of demagogues holding forth on the local airways. The most vociferous is the city’s deposed mayor. Every time another court decision on the cross comes down, and they’re always against its being there, Roger Hedgecock leads the charge to save it, and does he get histrionic! He once promised he would lie down in front of any bulldozer trying to remove the symbol. Another time, he and his successor, Mayor Maureen O’Conner, both were making that promise. Doesn’t that boggle the imagination?

Roger isn’t a bit shy about touting his credentials as a Christian, but Judge William L. Todd Jr. wasn’t impressed. When he sentenced him in 1985, the judge told him, “Your conduct … is reprehensible in every sense of the word because you violated the public trust, completely, over and over again.”

I haven’t heard one word of apology from Roger, but I don’t listen every day. Maybe this afternoon though.

And now we see that the crusader of crusaders, Mike Aguirre, contracted Charles LiMandri of the Thomas More Law Center to represent the city in the next hearing on Oct. 3. LiMandri is the guy who is most likely to keep this thing going. I guess Mike can then justify it all with something like “the ways of the Lord are mysterious.” That works every time for those who believe because they want to believe, not because they can point to any reason to do so.

Symbolism and/or prayers are the best some politicians can hope for if they pay no attention to what’s happening in the real world. That’s especially true of those politicians who ignore problems such as keeping levees repaired to save a city from the wrath of . . . uh, well, of God I guess.

That is the case in another city, one with perhaps more piety than San Diego. Despite crosses on almost every building in town and what must have been the prayers of hundreds thousands of folks, a hurricane came along and wiped out one of our country’s most beloved cities. New Orleans was devastated and people died by the hundreds when the water rushed past an un-repaired levee.

The president of the United States did little but pray about it for several days, but the folks in the Queen City still died. Finally, Bush fired the FEMA guy and scheduled a national day of prayer. I don’t know about the deity, but that doesn’t impress me. I’d much rather he’d had a quick chat with his FEMA guy. Maybe he could have asked him “What in the hell are you doing?” It would have seemed more appropriate than “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.”

And what are we doing? To start with we’re not electing politicians who promise to think rather than act on faith. At the very least we ought to shun those candidates who first always try what never has worked. Remember Dan Quayle, who was asked what was the first thing he’d do if he suddenly found out he was president. He replied, “First of all, I’d say a prayer.” I wonder why a follow-up question wasn’t asked: “Would you do that if you also knew a nuclear missile was heading our way?”

But, thinking? I have little hope of any of that happening. On any given first Tuesday in November, faith will always trump rational thought. Then we will wonder what went wrong.

Keith Taylor is a retired Navy officer. He can be reached at

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