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A Tale of Two Editorials

Two men with coveted jobs in the world of those who spend time thinking about the things we bloggers write about and get paid for it passed one another swiftly in the night; even though they were half a world away. Nicholas Kristoff in Afghanistan on his search for Usama bin Laden and David Brooks in his search for answers to why to vote for his President, George W Bush are those two men. Both have columns in today’s New York Times editoral page

I recommend both columns, they are rather eye-opening. Kristoff clearly is getting an earful in Afghanistan where he is searching for Usama in person. I pray he fails to find him; his death would be a loss. Brooks on the other hand is searching for reasons to vote for a President who he says is steadfast and resolute but lacks the statecraft to accomplish his goals. He says that the faithful and moralistic among us vote for Bush because his simple answers resonate with them. Kristoff finds that the same people, the moralistic ones, in Afghanistan have turned to the Taliban.

The problem with reelecting a President who lacks statecraft in a wartime environment is the tradeoff for lack of skill at statecraft is then body bags full of dead Soldiers and Marines who died in vain. Even the craftiest men of our generation’s leaders were not able to turn Vietnam into a victory. Johnson and Nixon both were the most effective statesmen in their parties at the time; neither was able to succeed in Vietnam. That may sound like an argument for retaining Bush but I would like to acquaint everyone out there with a fact, Bush has weakened our nation since 9/11, both at home and abroad. His simple moralistic approach to governing bears more scrutiny than Brooks spends on it. His domestic policies are not simple nor are they moralistic, they are greedy and reprehensible. They defy the idea that this is a simple moral leader who always follows clear principles.

The violence done to environmental policies established by bipartisan action over the last half of a century by this administration is monumental. Is that the act of a great moral leader? These changes have been made at the behest of industries that support Bush financially in his campaigns, are those acts the acts of a high-minded moral man. They are not! In the area of Medicare this Administration lied, both to Congress and the public in order to get its bill past Congress. Was that the act of a high minded moral man? That bill will harm the nation and the very elderly people that it was purported to help, does the support for it by this administration make Bush moral? It seems rather easy to conclude that the opposite is true.

Of course Bush is presented as moral, by Brooks and others among the punditry. Particularly by those who owe their careers to the support of the right wing for intellectuals with a bias toward leaning to the right. Some of us see Bush as neither simple nor moral but we are viewed as cynical and hard-bitten. On the other hand Kristoff is out there searching for Usama, a man he should hope he never meets. I am not afraid of Usama, but I am rather safe here at home in the bosom of the USA, Kristoff is wandering around in a nation that supported Usama’s attack on us at 9/11 on the reality dial. He is finding, not to my surprise, that the attitude there toward Americans has deteriorated since we won the war and banished the Taliban.

Kristoff quotes a government official from Uruzgan as saying, “The Taliban are much stronger than before.” Bush proudly announced to the world that ten million Afghans have registered to vote during the debate. He did that without noticing that there are not ten million eligible voters in that nation of a very few million more than ten million people. Children are far more than fifty percent of the population of Afghanistan. The ten million figure is not just specious but outrageous. Of course this moral man never bothered to check the facts before he uttered them in a national forum. That is clearly a pattern with him, and this is moral leadership? Bush is neither simple nor moral, at the core of the man lies a soul steeped in the Machiavellian fantasy that the end justifies the means. That is moral relativism at its roots and is rotten to the core with lies and the disdain those lies show for the very people who vote for him.

Brooks actually says in his article’s lead sentence; “I think the best ticket for this country would be Bush-Kerry.” The problem with that approach to nullifying Kerry is that no one who would vote for Kerry would want Bush in the lead position on that ticket. The other problem is that all through the article Brooks talks about how Kerry can’t make up his mind and Bush makes up his without knowing the facts. Bush apparently acts from some nebulous principled reality where he doesn’t need facts to make up his mind. God help us if that is true, Stalin had that level of moral certainty, Hitler had that level of moral certainty, Mao had that level of moral certainty. They are not the role models I prefer our leaders to resemble in the area of moral certainty. The man who cannot argue on the points but knows the right course when he sees it is the quintessential demagogue. Is that who Brooks is voting for this time out?

I was greatly encouraged by Kerry’s victory in the first debate, and hope that he can struggle hard enough to win this election. He will need to fight the erroneous idea that the man of moral courage must deny facts and serve undefined “principles” regardless of what is happening in the real world. That is a particularly pernicious prevarication promoted particularly by the right, in these odd and unusual times. Perhaps the party of Lincoln can find its roots in the morality of its support for great humanitarian causes, but only if it can drive a stake through the heart of its current leadership. They have usurped the GOP and demolished its conservative roots through which the seed of liberty was well nourished. I am sad for Brooks and all of the other intellectually curious men of the right; their world view is constrained by the folly of being led by lesser men with a weaker grasp of the truth that lies only in the real world. God bless you all and help you cling to your hold on what is real, nothing else will serve this nation so well in the end. ©Henri Reynard/GoldenBrush Interactive

Posted by Henri Reynard at October 2, 2004 7:02 AM