As We See Them
Presidential Elections and other Stories in the Meat Market
Bits and Pieces before the Crowds Roar
The latest debate was not conclusive. Both men are tired of it and want to move on.
One indelible impression however: Kerry looked and sounded like the president, Bush
looked and acted like the candidate. In the final analysis that may be the fatal blow
for President Bush.
However impressed the people are with looks, countenance, demeanor and the like
they must always remember they are hiring a President; a big boss if ever there was one.
And you don't necessarily want your boss to be your friend. Bush seems like an amiable
guy and a good guy in some ways who has overcome some personal problems. But, where it
counts he is woefully lacking and not fit to be the big boss. Obviously, each citizen has to reach their own conclusion about it. And it looks like it's evenly divided again. Is there any reason to worry about the divisions often referred to as the "cultural wars," or the
conflict between the "reds and the blues?" No. After all, no one is shooting at the other
party at this point. That's when you have to worry. Up to that point it's all human nature
thrown against the impossible. One of the great redeeming features of this country is that
power is diffused; power is shared. Local regions still maintain a great deal of autonomy. Therefore there isn't a sense of loss, for the most part, when my side loses in an election of this sort.
Praise to the architects of this system!
It makes a difference, without question, who wins and what the stakes are. But, in the long run truth wins out; the facts win out, the good drives out the bad; the bad reseeds in some
new environment and springs up in front of the startled citizens and the whole thing fights again.
Personally, I think this nation would be lesser if southern Baptist fundamentalists were to gain the type of power they always seek. I don't see any other conclusion to reach but that they want the United States to become a kind of Iran. I always felt that in a free society the citizens are a lot better when they admit their limitation and weakness and go fill themselves in that part of the culture that is stronger where they are weaker. More secular education and secular forms of problem-solving for the Bible toting crowd; and more spiritual development for the secular crowd. For instance. Only truly free people, confident and joyful at the prospect of
living in the future would hail such a view.
October 14, 2004
The central question to be asked is this: Who is accountable? Is it the president
or the Senator? The President of the United States must be held accountable for the
decisions he has made, no one else. And that decision included a rash attack in Iraq
that proved to be unnecessary and, in fact, diversionary from the real problem. So, his decision
has bogged the United States down in an area that will be very difficult to extricate from.
And if the President is not held accountable, then who can be held accountable? It seems
ridiculous to address a question like that at this late date.
President Bush was better prepared this debate, no question. But he appeared to be
the attack dog chasing after the postman.
One can appreciate the way President Bush is trying to save his presidency. It almost
inspires a feeling of pity as he sees his lead disintegrate. He attacked Senator Kerry effectively
in some comments, missed by miles in others. The stem-cell research question, for instance, made
the president look like a yahoo. It marks him down as one who would have defended the
prosecution of Scopes in the 1920's.
He tries to convince the people that the
ouster of Saddam Hussein was worth it, is still worth it, and will be worth it as more
billions and lives are spent in the pursuit. He was counseled to be this way.
As we said before, the man is not stupid. He's empty but not stupid. And he has an
instinct for survival.
But, if the President is not held accountable for his actions, who is? And what kind of democracy
exists if the commander-in-chief can not be dismissed because he made some very fundamental errors? That is the central question. The attacks on Kerry are meaningless. President Bush wants
the power but is in denial of the facts.
The apologists and spinners are the worst. If this is the highest attainment of American
democracy, then the fair-minded say, "take it down and make a new one."
October 8, 2004
Some impressions of the debate last night between Vice-President Cheney and Senator
- We now know, for certain, who runs the country. The comparison between the President
and Vice-President is striking and more revealing than between the candidates.
- No matter how smart you are and how you grasp the facts, the public rejects the kind
of mean, snarly demeanor of the Vice-President.
- Senator Edwards, a totally unknown quality coming into the debates, withstood some
withering attacks, was unflappable, poised, and always personable.
So, we have the most unpresidential person in modern history in office, unqualified,
with a vice-president who is very smart, capable, knowledgeable but whose demeanor makes
it impossible for him to be a leader of free people. People trapped in a corporation, yes,
he probably scares the wit out of them. But, in a free society you'd better be personable
and connect. He doesn't. It is one of the most awful teams in history. But, they have a real shot
at winning, no question.
To be fair, the vice-president did score some points and as a debater came out even
if not a bit ahead. But it's quite obvious now that people look at these debates for character,
for demeanor, for confidence, and for connection to the people. And in those areas Cheney lost
Frankly, the Democrats have a problem with Iraq that the Bush team has exploited very well.
However, it has happened before in American history that the people gave thought to ousting a
sitting president during a war. That was Lincoln during the Civil War who was challenged in
1864 by the popular General McClellan. Historians note that in the summer of that year there
was a real chance Lincoln was going to be defeated. Post-Gettsyburg, the tone of the nation was surly
and very tired of the whole thing. The Democrats were going to call for a cessation of hostilities. What turned the tide was the belief that won over Lincoln that "total war" had to be
waged against the south in the form of Sherman's March to the Sea.
I hesitate to put George Bush's name next to Lincoln's but here we are. The problem for George Bush has been exemplified by the two debates. Cheney showed passion, knowledge, and that he understood the conflict. The President did not. And as we've stated before and put it down as an axiom, "if the commander-in-chief doesn't know, no one else does." And it's one reason Iraq has been such a botch despite intelligent, conscientious people in the White House.
October 6, 2004
So, the choice is clear at this point. And since the candidates graciously bowed out of the attempt
to judge each others character we will do it for them. On one hand, a commander-in-chief-type who knows the facts, who can look at that many-sided thing called reality, can speak and show confidence and on the other, a little twerp who knows little and believes less. And the fact the little twerp has been president for four years matters little as showed last night. Three years of a "war on terrorism" have not sharpened this man, deepened this man, chastened this man or otherwise initiated that tough human condition, growth and development.
All it points out is what everyone knew in the beginning: He commands nothing and after the debate will not even command basic respect due a president. When he flashed one of his grimaces or smirks or unidentified expression it said to me, "Kerry, my dad knows a lot of real important and powerful guys and you are in trouble."
Not that President Bush did not score some debating points. He did and kept to the basic
theme his handlers wanted him to focus on, "you can't send mixed messages as a commander-in-chief." Senator Kerry handled that very deftly but should have pointed something out. He is not commander-in-chief. He is a Senator. It is President Bush who shouldn't send mixed messages as he did a few weeks ago when he claimed the war on terror would never be completely won.
The debate last night resembled the one between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan in 1980. And Reagan carved up the sitting president and shifted the whole feeling of the election. But even in that debate Carter did not appear a sniveling, angry little boy. He just seemed a bit stiff and officious.
As one columnist has put it, "the race is on."
I think the pervasive impression from last night that the Bush people had better be concerned
about is simple, "this man is not a President of the United States." I have never seen or felt
someone so unpresidential as I did last night. And only those frightened and poor townspeople who look at the naked emperor in the street and comment on what fine clothes he has on will be fooled. And, unfortunately, their name is legion.
October 1, 2004