Archive - Sep 2008 - Editorial
Welcome to the Brave New World where author Aldous Huxley imagined in his 1932 satire that society would prefer to be kept uninformed and live lock-step in a soma-induced blissful oblivion. Well, close enough. The world is the political orbit of the Republican Party in which no one is allowed to speak critically of vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin and the media, in particular, is not to pursue questions that seek to flesh out her positions or leadership style were she to be catapulted into the nation’s highest office.
Facts in this Republican dystopia (a negative utopia) don’t matter; what matters is that supporters swallow the party script. So, if Gov. Palin wants to keep repeating the lie that she opposed the Bridge to Nowhere and rejects federal earmarks to states, then the party faithful should excuse the falsehood and just drink the soma-laced Kool-Aid.
John Feehery, a Republican strategist, captured the mood perfectly in a Washington Post story on Tuesday when he told a Post reporter that the campaign was entering a period in which the dominant themes established in the campaign were more important than skirmishes over the facts.
“The more The New York Times and The Washington Post go after Sarah Palin, the better off she is, because there’s a bigger truth out there and the bigger truths are she’s new, she’s popular in Alaska and she is an insurgent,” Feehery said. “As long as those are out there, these little facts don’t really matter.”
Wow. Let’s think about that.
The short-term politics of picking Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as vice-president on the Republican ticket are more astute than many Democrats are acknowledging. The pick has, in a moment’s notice, galvanized the religious right, brought abortion back into the spotlight, and re-energized John McCain’s candidacy for president as a maverick.
But the longer-term impact of the choice will likely undermine the confidence the American public will have in McCain’s decision-making.
If Palin’s choice as his running mate is indicative of his recklessness and willingness to gamble the nation’s security for a bump in the polls, then the American public must face the possibility that we would have another president in the White House who would rule by gut instinct, hasty and uninformed decisions, and a reluctance to fully vet an issue before making important decisions.
In choosing Palin, McCain had his first face-to-face conversation with her the day before his announcement; a time that his staff was still researching information about her past and her qualifications. On the day before making her selection public, the McCain staff found out about her 17-year-old daughter being five months pregnant — not an issue in itself, but the fact that it was unknown until the day before more than suggests that the vetting process was rushed and uninformed at the very least. Yet, McCain maintains — as Bush so often did — that the facts are not as they seem; that the contradictory evidence is just the other side making a big deal out of nothing. (It also points out the weakness of those who, like Palin, support abstinence over birth control.)
Two undercurrents of the Republican Convention jumped from the stage so blatantly they became the white elephant in the room: the irony that the Republicans were running as a party of change, and the championing of bubba-hood over intelligence as qualifications to lead this nation.
Sen. John McCain’s choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and the subsequent convention rhetoric used to promote her nomination and lash out at the Democrats with partisan rancor, showed just how far the G.O.P. has sunk in its election strategy.
In a country that used to seek “the best and the brightest” to lead our nation, Republicans recently have chosen candidates who have ranked at the bottom of their classes academically (Bush and McCain) and rely frequently on personal beliefs, rather than accepted facts or critical review of performance, to make decisions that are crucial for the nation’s future.
Bush’s appointment of Donald Rumsfeld as head of the Defense Department and his willingness to keep him in place in the face of abysmal failure and a ruinous foreign policy for the first five years of his presidency, for example, were disastrous. Similarly, his decision to ignore the evidence that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction and instead invade Iraq, while taking the focus off of capturing Osama bin Laden and defeating the Taliban, has been costly and counterproductive.
If Americans believe that “we are a better country” than what we have seen for the past eight years, as Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech Thursday night, then that sense of hope will help propel him into the White House.
In what was an inspiring speech, Obama’s soaring rhetorical style encouraged Americans to dream again of a country that leads the world, not by military might, but by the force of its optimism and a promise of opportunity available to all:
“It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect,” Obama said. “It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.
“Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves — protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology. Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.
“That’s the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.
“That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now.”
But Obama’s speech wasn’t just about hope. He also asked the American people to look critically at the failure of the Bush administration over this past eight years, and not excuse that performance.