Sunday, July 22, 2007

A commentary on political discourse

In light of Senator Feingold's weekend revelation of censuring the President once again, and a few other choice articles I read, I become more and more disturbed at the course of political rhetoric today - the one on the fast track down hill and into the gutter.

Feingold wants to censure Bush for "his management of the Iraq war and his 'assault' against the Constitution." I do not think this is a smart political move by any means, but I'm not going to insult Senator Feingold for having an opinion or using the media as a mouthpiece to spread it. Just when I was beginning to like him for his proactive steps to promote Mark Green for Tanzania's next ambassador, he makes the front page on baseless political attacks. But again, I will not stoop to that level...and let me explain.

These days, any political figure can have the microphone when he or she wants it. Often I complain about the liberal media bias and poor journalism (face it, it's out there), but it comes down to message management, or mis-management. The White House does a fantastic job of staying on message. They have oozed it since innauguration day, 2001. The campaign to re-elect President Bush in 2004 sweat message. You could wipe everyone's brow with the same hanky, it never changed. But is that the ultimate failure of the Bush administration now in his lame-duck term?

If you've ever seen The American President, a young Michael Douglas plays a widower Democratic President in an off-year before re-election, struggling to pass a crime bill while his girlfriend Sydney Wade is pushing an environmental bill through Congress and their relationship continues to get more serious. The Republican challenger begins to emerge and attack not only the president but his girlfriend, trying to paint him as a candidate without family values. The applicable message comes toward the end when Michael J. Fox's character, Lewis Rothschild, challenges President Shepherd to finally respond to the negative attention Sydney has been receiving in the media and the effect she has on public opinion polls, so that America can focus on his political agenda and not his personal life. Shepherd tells everyone to "ignore it. It'll go away." Lewis argues:
"Bob Rumson is the only one doing the talking! People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they'll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They're so thirsty for it they'll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there's no water, they'll drink the sand."
I believe this is the problem. In staying on message, in continuing to never admit defeat, to promote his decisions as heart-felt and well-intentioned, President Bush has stopped doing the talking. To me, he is a leader in every sense of the word, not relying on public opinion polls to tell him everything up to where to vacation. (cough, Bill Clinton, cough.) He is going to stand by his choices - his leadership because he ultimately believes they are right for our nation. But by this monotone message, the President takes a backseat to whomever approaches the microphone. Senator Reid is free to say "The president already has the mark of the American people — he's the worst president we ever had." And that's what makes Monday's front page headline. Bush 'worst president ever.'

Do you think Americans fare better because of this type of political discourse? It's no more than a childish name-calling competition, a fight on the playground.

The President has allowed everyone else from Nancy Pelosi to Cindy Sheehan to define the rules of the debate and the rounds in the ring. He and his administration no longer preceed the debate with positive reasoning, they exist to respond to negative attacks. They exist to defend themselves and doing so after an attack - or avoiding it completely- makes the defense reverberate into the background like hollow echoes against a mountain butte. No one hears what they are saying. We have stopped hearing the President, but more importantly, we have stopped listening. We don't hear our government officials' path of reason and policy ideas and instead allow the baseless attacks to take center stage. And why should we listen anyway? It's not a message we haven't already heard a hundred times, right?

What are the words "worst," or "great," really? They are adjectives to describe a noun. They are subjective adjectives when applied to people and political opinions. Bush is the "worst" and former AG Lautenschlager was a "great" AG. Says who? The problem is the White House and the Republicans aren't going to splash about in the press with adjectives that have no place being reported as facts. The non-response will continue to hurt the American public and their view of politics and government, as well as the direction political discourse will turn.

All we hear these days are words of hatred for Bush from the mouth of Democrats -and many Republicans. We know already, you don't like the President and you think he's dumb! But that is not the way to progress the status of our Union. I am saddened and embarrased at the level of the rhetoric spewing from the mouths of our "leadership" these days. When can we get past playground name calling and see our elected political officials argue policy without immature slander mixed in?


capper said...

Methinks that the playground slander, etc. would stop, if the leaders would get about doing the will of the people, and I don't mean the special interest people.

Nick said...

My fear in Bush's "stay the course" message is that it seems (especially given his utter lack of change in message at all), that his course doesn't waver even and inch.

This is not leadership. Leaders see a goal in the distance, and plot a route to get there. However, when that route becomes untenable, a good leader re-evaluates the route and not the goal. Bush seems to never waver from his original route, and instead chooses to charge head long the same way, like a stuborn bull ramming into a wall.

Good leaders look for another path to get to the same distant location. Some may argue that he is doing just that... but I would argue that its almost impossible to see this because his rhetoric never changes.... and so the average citizen is left to wonder what changes.