Tue 12 Nov, 2002 10:17 am
President Bush Asks NOT What You Can Do For Your Country
By Arianna Huffington
During his final, frantic -- and ultimately wildly successful --
15-states-in-five-days campaign spree, President Bush repeatedly
exhorted Americans to be "willing to serve something greater than
But, in truth, it's pretty obvious he didn't really expect us to
As Bill Maher writes in his just released book "When You Ride
Alone, You Ride with bin Laden": "We were asked to do very little
and we responded. That's the bargain we tacitly make with our
presidents: We won't ask too much of you, if you don't ask too
much of us."
And true to form, in speech after speech, the president has been
asking very little of us. At one stop he recommended we "be a Boy
Scout leader or a Girl Scout leader." At another he suggested
that Americans "put their arm around somebody who hurts and say
'I love you. What can I do to help you? How can I make your life
better?'" Unfortunately, he failed to mention what to do when the
answer to that question is: "Take you damn arm off of me and get
me some affordable health insurance!"
Now I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with being a Boy
Scout leader or telling people that you love them (even when you
don't -- by the way, Mr. President, I love you.) Indeed, I'm all
in favor of these things. But there is a world of difference
between urging mild, spare-time charity and championing a cause
that will transform our society. It's the difference between
flaccid, patronizing stump speech rhetoric and invoking
patriotism to rally us as a nation to a common mission.
In 1961, John F. Kennedy stood in front of a joint session of
Congress and laid out a vision for the future: "I believe this
nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the
decade is out, of landing a man on the moon." He used his bully
pulpit to gather the political will to meet a monumental
challenge -- and backed it up with financial muscle. Eight years
later after a mobilization of resources, exceptionally talented
people, and that extremely American can-do quality, we achieved
the science fiction goal when Neil Armstrong bounced across the
lunar surface. People, no doubt, still told each other "I love
you," but love doesn't get you to the moon.
So what if President Bush were to use his newly-won political
power to do the same -- to call on the American people to commit
themselves to a large, collective purpose? There's no shortage of
needs. I have two that immediately come to mind.
He could borrow President Kennedy's language and call on the
nation to "commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade
is out, of becoming completely independent of foreign oil." Or
he can call on the nation to "commit itself to achieving the
goal, before the decade is out, of closing the ever-widening gap
between the children growing up with hope for the future and
those growing up in despair."
Okay, I realize that, given the president's oily background,
there is probably very little chance of his choosing the first
cause even though the cause of energy independence seems to offer
plenty of opportunity for an oil industry willing to harken, no
pun intended, back to its energetic wildcatting roots. But what
about the second goal? After all, he and his wife have already
shown an interest in the subject.
Last week, over 1,000 people gathered in Washington to celebrate
25 years of Communities In Schools (CIS), a remarkable
organization that has turned around the lives of hundreds of
thousands of at-risk children throughout the country.
Among the group's high-profile supporters is First Lady Laura
Bush, who has praised CIS as "a terrific model for people who
want to make a difference. It's an organization that has proven
for 25 years that they can turn kids on to learning by turning
them on to life."
Bill Milliken, CIS's founder, was himself a troubled kid growing
up in Pittsburgh in the 50s. He's now putting into practice the
national exhortation Bush has yet to make. "Our communities have
been blown apart," Milliken told me, "and we have kids running
around looking for help. We're responding to this by bringing
caring adults into one central location -- the schools -- to meet
the children's unmet needs. Our work is based on the belief that
programs don't change kids -- relationships do."
Communities In Schools currently has over 45,000 volunteers
working in 2,550 schools -- putting in 1.8 million hours a year.
Those are impressive numbers -- until you consider the magnitude
of the problem: There are over 96,000 public schools and roughly
13 million at-risk children.
And that's where the power of the presidency comes in. We cannot
go from where we are to where we need to be with individual acts
of charity and touchy-feely speeches alone. To create the critical
mass that will truly transform the lives of a generation of
children, we need to make a Manhattan Project-level commitment
of resources and resolve.
So let's strike a new bargain with our leaders: We will expect a
lot more of them and we're ready for them to ask a lot more of
us. President Bush claims to believe in the country. So why
doesn't he believe in us?
He does believe in us--as consumers, as potential marks for the energy industry's latest version of three-card monte. Step right up, suckers, nothing expected of you, so long as you have check book or debit card in hand . . .
Well, that's it, isn't it. He tried to inspire us with a vision, and failed. We didn't go shopping like we were supposed to.
Theodore Roosevelt was spot on. The presidency really is "a bully pulpit", if there is an agenda, and if the president knows how to use it. TR wasn't using the term in the sense of 'school yard bully' just by the way. It is a very fine, maybe delightful pulpit.
Exactly. Bush is a productof Harvard Business College where salesmanship is the guiding force. His appeals are those of the sales manager in reverse -- not go out and sell but go out and buy. There, he has failed. That will only come true when prices are discounted so deeply that products (and the stock market) become real bargains. There's no bargains in the real estate market yet but look out next year. A lot of money was taken out of the stock market and poured into real estate. Our only hope is that the economic advisors are smart enough to steer the ship while the captain is sleeping. Karl Rove? Dick Cheney? Andrew Card? Three first mates who have concocted a plan for an expensive war without any idea of what the consequences will be. Wars have historically stimulated the economy? I don't know if that is really true -- it seems more true that in a failing economy, we manage to get into a war. Wonder why that is?
Wars stimulate economies only in the sense that munitions industries prosper, and there is a small ripple effect to the rest of the economy. Munitions are the ultimate consumer product, expensive and guaranteed to be consumed rapidly, whether or not they perform as advertised. When a nation's economy is geared for war, the end of the war guarantees a slump. Frederick II of Prussia understood, before ever he went to war, what it would cost his then poor, little nation. He did his level best to provide for a war chest, and, after the first and second Silesian Wars, knowing that Maria Theresa was not about to give up Silesia without another fight, and perhaps many more, he did his level best to build Prussia's treasury and economy up well enough to support another war. It came, in 1756, and Prussia was quickly drained of the reserves he has so assiduously created. War ultimately benefits only a handful of individuals. The short-term, only seemingly beneficial economic effects do not outweigh the economic disruption--witness the continuing slump even after a relatively short war such as in the Gulf in 1990-91. This is why Eisenhower warned us about the Military-Industrial complex: he understood the economic benefits are illusory, and that such a partnership of munitions dealers and politicians threaten the democratic nature of the polity.
It's part of the design of a facist government for industry and especially the munitions industry to support the economy. Hmmm...doesn't seem to work too well in the real world. You are right about the consumption of munitions but our economy depends largely on consumption of disposable and durable goods in households and businesses. There are many other forces in the economy that are in this juggling act of trying to make it work and when it sags, trying to buoy it up. They've had better luck making gold from lead.
Possibly dubya could encourage the ownership of one assault rifle and one 9mm handgun for every man woman and child in the country. Add in a thousand rounds of ammo for each gun, and you have a nice little boost for the arms industry and for employment and therefore for the economy. Such a program sounds patriotic and I really don't see how anyone could be against it.
He could further stimulate the economy by opening target ranges in every neighborhood. This would burn up a lot of ammo and provide a lot of jobs. If he put a Starbucks and child care in each facility, these target ranges would become prime neighborhood meeting places. There could be TV screens on the walls piping in patriotic messages. You know, stuff that would build up the pro-war spirit in the country. You know, something that would put an end to this aimless joy of living and give us a purpose worth dying for. We've pretty well accepted that greed is good. What's so terrible about finally recognizing that death is good?
Let's go for it!
Let's roll! Holsters and spurs would be nice, also.
Do i git a purdy un-ee-form ?
Thought you all might be interested in this. I saw Arianna on the telly this afternoon. Apparently she's decided that since our Pres didn't inspire us to do something worthwhile, she will. She's having a commercial spot filmed at the moment along the lines of the anti-drug ads (the ones where the little kid's voice says, 'This is John...this is John's dealer...). In this case, it will be anti-SUV's with the clincher that SUV owners are responsible for supporting the terrorists.
It also came to light in the same feature that a religious right group is also releasing an ad campaign titled 'What Would Jesus Drive?', also in hopes of separating Americans from their big cars.
Bandylu, That's pretty interesting about the proposed "What would Jesus Drive" ad. Maybe I just have been unobservant, but I hadn't noticed that the current Fundamentalists were especially anti-materialistic or concerned about the environment.
When I was a Baptist Fundamentalist fifty years ago, the renunciation of material goods was a positive virtue. In the nouveau Fundamentalism, it seems to me, they tend to say that God wants everyone to be rich and prosperous. This gives the religion a tie into the popular psychology of success that is all the rage in the corporate world.
Many fundamentalists follow the thinking of Ronald Ragan's Secretary Interior, James Watt, who said that it didn't matter what we did to the environment because the Second Coming of Jesus is about to occur, rendering environmental questions of no importance.
One wonders if Bush subscribes to this idea.
Well, Arianna's driving a high bred car. In Bill Maher's new book, he makes a solid case about driving gas guzzlng SUV's financing the terrorists and he's been pretty convincing on his TV appearances including Larry King.
Lightwizard: Do you read Arianna frequently? I have started doing so.
Her latest is an eye opener on McCain and George--see
I get her E mailed editorials -- you should post that as a topic!
It is really and eye opener about the modus operandi of this administration's bait and switch, smoke and mirrors policies.
Harvard Business College, BTW, teaches a very sophisticated bait and switch sales technique -- but you have to be a good learner to use it properly.
Hmmm - perhaps the fundamentalists are concerned, not with the environment, but with your country not giving money to the Middle East for fuel.....beastly Moslems and all that.
Strange how interests can converge from very different places.
I don't if it's worthy as a subject because personally I don't feel the person is worthy of anything but Trent Lott has stuck his foot in his mouth clear down to his groin. He was in broadcasting before he was a Senator and should know by now how to research the basis of his comments. This looked premeditated to please the constituency to me, his comments on Strom Thrumond not winning his Presidential bid in 1948. He's said some really dumb things in the past but this one trumps all. I don't have the comment verbatim here but it's all over the news.
Mr unPresident, please come and take out my garbage and clean my septic tank. It is a job even you are qualified for and I need it done. By the way, Thanks in advance!
OOOH, you are cruel, BillW. Are you sure he's not in the thick of it already?
LW, can't say I'm not compassionate, and I haven't expected too much of him!