SUMMERTIME... AND THE PUNDITRY IS EASY
(Part Five: the Finale)
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
by Richard E. Berg-Andersson
The rigid Constitution of the United States, the gigantic scale and strength of its party machinery, the fixed terms for which public officers and representatives are chosen, invest the President with a greater measure of autocratic power than was possessed before the war by the Head of any great State. The vast size of the country, the diverse types, interests and environments of its enormous population, the safety-valve function of the legislatures of nearly fifty Sovereign States, make the focusing of national public opinion difficult, and confer upon the Federal Government exceptional independence of it except at fixed election times. Few modern Governments need to concern themselves so little with the opinion of the party they have beaten at the polls; none secures to its supreme executive officer, at once the Sovereign and the Party Leader, such direct personal authority.--
WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: The World Crisis (Churchill's multi-volume account of World War I and its immediate aftermath), Volume III: first published 1927
In his 9 June 2009 speech before that Republican House-Senate fundraising dinner, actor Jon Voight opened with the words "Do not tell me it can't be done": he was here referring to the notion that the GOP can't possibly make a dramatic comeback in the 2010 Midterm Elections-- true enough (as I myself noted at the very start of this particular series of Commentaries, come back to this website a year from now and I might be telling you something very different, if only because of events that, right now, cannot yet even be foreseen); but Voight also bitterly complained that "the Democratic Party thinks that our voices have been silenced: they boast that they're the winners and we have nothing to say".
But putting aside my own rule of thumb that "if I can hear you, you haven't been silenced" (one of my pet peeves is people, of whatever Party or ideology, getting themselves on TV- or, nowadays, perhaps blogging on the Internet- and complaining about how their opponents have tried to silence them [obviously, it didn't work, did it? ;-)]), Churchill's observation quoted above is a point well taken. The fact of the matter is that President Obama and the Democrats in Congress don't have to much "concern themselves... with the opinion of the party they have beaten at the polls", at least not until the campaigning approaching the next "fixed election time" for Federal office. Meanwhile, I certainly don't recall the Republicans all that upset about similar complaints, by Democrats, of being largely ignored politically in the wake of George W. Bush's first taking office as President eight years ago (funny how that works, isn't it?).
Of course, the key word here is "party": as for the People, they must ever be a President's concern (which is why the rather rancorous 'town meetings' on Health Care recently were giving the Obama White House such fits) and, while President Obama does enjoy such "direct personal authority" as Churchill noted within that High Office (note also that Churchill already perceived a certain "autocracy" therein well before Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal, which traditionally marks the historical divide between the earlier paramountcy of Congress and the later so-called "imperial Presidency": of course, Churchill was here comparing America's "Presidential system" with that "Parliamentary democracy" of his own homeland), such can so easily be squandered in the micromanaging of so many skirmishes (instead of better managing the much larger political battles) over major- where not also controversial- issues such as Health Care.
Meanwhile, we must- yet once more- confront that "Fear itself" that is already out there, particularly amongst people over whom Obama has little "direct personal authority", those who were not supportive of his becoming President in the first place.
I have recently received, from several sources, an 'Open Letter to President Obama' rather different than the one to which I referred in Part Three of this series, written by (and, per the many reliable sources I've checked, the attribution is, in this case, apparently genuine) corporate executive Lou Pritchett:
it reads as follows--
AN OPEN LETTER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA Dear President Obama: You are the thirteenth President under whom I have lived and unlike any of the others, you truly scare me. You scare me because after months of exposure, I know nothing about you. You scare me because I do not know how you paid for your expensive Ivy League education and your upscale lifestyle and housing with no visible signs of support. You scare me because you did not spend the formative years of youth growing up in America and culturally you are not an American. You scare me because you have never run a company or met a payroll. You scare me because you have never had military experience, thus don't understand it at its core. You scare me because you lack humility and 'class', always blaming others. You scare me because for over half your life you have aligned yourself with radical extremists who hate America and you refuse to publicly denounce these radicals who wish to see America fail. You scare me because you are a cheerleader for the 'blame America ' crowd and deliver this message abroad. You scare me because you want to change America to a European style country where the government sector dominates instead of the private sector. You scare me because you want to replace our health care system with a government controlled one.
You scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves. You scare me because you want to kill the American capitalist goose that lays the golden egg which provides the highest standard of living in the world. You scare me because you have begun to use 'extortion' tactics against certain banks and corporations. You scare me because your own political party shrinks from challenging you on your wild and irresponsible spending proposals. You scare me because you will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people. You scare me because you falsely believe that you are both omnipotent and omniscient. You scare me because the media gives you a free pass on everything you do. You scare me because you demonize and want to silence the Limbaughs, Hannitys, O'Relllys and Becks who offer opposing, conservative points of view. You scare me because you prefer controlling over governing. Finally, you scare me because if you serve a second term I will probably not feel safe in writing a similar letter in 8 years. Lou Pritchett
Now, frankly, many of the things that scare Mr. Pritchett about President Obama are rather silly: for instance, "[y]ou scare me because you prefer 'wind mills' to responsibly capitalizing on our own vast oil, coal and shale reserves"-- 'windmill farms versus oil, coal and shale' (along with just how much "versus") is merely a choice amongst competing Energy Policy options... scary?... if that be the case, then I should be downright terrified that my Borough's Council recently chose to put the new STOP sign in my neighborhood facing one street coming into a nearby intersection instead of the other!... fear of policy choice seems, again, silly.
Others among Mr. Pritchett's "fears" are altogether nebulous: for example, his " 'blame America' crowd" is a rather broad brush that could well cover a whole smorgasbord of complaints about the United States of America made here at home as well as abroad, ranging from the downright ridiculous- where not also offensive to myself as an American- to complaints that might actually deserve no little contemplation [fact is, America has acted the arrogant jerk more than a few times throughout its History, even while seeking to be Jon Voight's "great power for good in the world", and it has to be expected that others- whether affected directly, indirectly or even not at all- are going to react accordingly (as with individual behavior, so it is with national behavior-- in order to take responsibility for, one has to also deal with the ramifications of, one's own actions): America is thereafter always put in the position of deciding how best to respond to said negative reactions, as well as also deciding just which of these reactions, if any, to respond to. America is, as a sovereign Nation-State, always free to choose to not all that much care what others may think, but such hubris is not going to at all stop said others from thinking it and acting accordingly themselves!])
And, within Mr. Pritchett's comments, there is also that same notion of people I myself hear (or, at least, hear about) every day- people named, oh say, Limbaugh, Hannity, O'Reilly and Beck- being silenced that I've already addressed above in relation to Jon Voight's similar comments a couple months back.
There is, in addition, a certain inconsistency within Pritchett's comments as well: for example, Obama scares him because "because after months of exposure, I know nothing about [Obama]", yet- so knowing "nothing" about the President (so he says)- Pritchett can, nonetheless, entertain a notion that Barack Obama is, somehow, "culturally... not an American" (whatever that might mean!-- to me, this sounds as if it is treading rather close to ethnic- and even religious- exclusivity [which, again, the Republicans have been encouraged to exploit in upcoming elections]) and is also one who "will not openly listen to or even consider opposing points of view from intelligent people" and, in addition, "falsely believes that [he, Obama, is] both omnipotent and omniscient". This kind of stuff reads much too much like one of Reverend Scofield's authoritative statements as to what a biblical passage really means without attribution other than the author's own belief per se.
But regardless of the validity, or lack thereof, of each of that which might scare Mr. Pritchett, all of what scares him (as expressed in his 'Open Letter') is, indeed, "out there" scaring many many others as well and, once more I say, if only as a word of punditry warning (whatever that might be worth!): the Democrats ignore this "Fear itself" at their own electoral peril!
As for myself, I do not so fear, for "Fear itself" is, to me, a sign of weak-mindedness, a byproduct largely of ignorance (of which the fearmongerers, regardless of Party or ideology, have displayed plenty even as they themselves seek to exploit same in others) as well as a cowering often fairly bordering on cowardice itself.
"Fear itself" is also very often born of hatred. I myself did not fear after 11 September 2001 any more than I feared prior thereto; I also did not fear after the horrific events of that date in particular because I did not hate-- no, not even the 9/11 terrorists nor those who supported, aided and/or abetted them. I did not- and do not- hate, in part, precisely because those who are attracted to groups like Al Qa'eda wanted me to hate them, as it would give them even more twisted and wrongful "justification" to do harm to me and my fellow countrymen, although I was- and, to this day, am- not so naive, not to also say stupid, as to think that they, thereby, might not thereafter do such harm in any event; but I also did not/do not hate because I so well understand that Islam (a religion I've actually studied, mind you!) is not some monolith, any more than is any other of the World's Great Religions, an understanding that allows me to more easily avoid the very ignorance that can so very easily devolve into-- well-- "Fear itself"!
An American patriot can- and often should- be concerned, but should never fear in the sense that FDR used the phrase "Fear itself"; an American patriot should also remain well aware that the United States of America is not the Center of the Universe-- certainly the Founding Fathers did not think it was (and who is more iconic of the very word "Patriot" than they?): for many, if not most, of those we include in that pantheon- whether "deputies" to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 or no- were genuinely concerned that the Union they ended up forging in the wake of having broken away from the nascent British Empire would not outlive even the last of themselves...
for "Fear itself" largely contributes to a reactive "knee jerk" (emphasis on the word "jerk"? [;-)]) domineering jingoistic national chauvinism which has, sadly, driven much of American Foreign Policy, regardless of the Party of the person in the White House and has also infected- where it has not also infested- domestic matters...
in truth, neither side of the current American ideological divide has any sort of monopoly on what Mr. Pritchett refers to as a "lack of humility and 'class' "!
Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall (Proverbs 16:18)
Well-- I see it has gotten dark now (there go the katydids!)... the well-greyed coals underneath the grill have long since lost the last of their red glow... and-- well-- I'm now all out of beer...
time for my guests to head out...
safe trip home... for all of us!!