The People in the Mirror
I don’t think that George W. Bush is completely to blame for the last eight years.
I came to this conclusion yesterday as I was out jogging and listening to a rebroadcast of Bill Moyer’s interview with Andrew J. Bocevich whose new book about our imperial presidency is moving up the NYT best sellers list. Although I have listened to the conversation a few weeks ago when it first aired, now with the Wall Street fall out it hits more things home. It was when they got to this point in the conversation that I really perked up:
BILL MOYERS: You’re the only author I have read, since I read Jimmy Carter, who gives so much time to the President’s speech on July 15th, 1979. Why does that speech speak to you so strongly?
ANDREW BACEVICH: Well, this is the so-called Malaise Speech, even though he never used the word “malaise” in the text to the address. It’s a very powerful speech, I think, because President Carter says in that speech, oil, our dependence on oil, poses a looming threat to the country. If we act now, we may be able to fix this problem. If we don’t act now, we’re headed down a path in which not only will we become increasingly dependent upon foreign oil, but we will have opted for a false model of freedom. A freedom of materialism, a freedom of self-indulgence, a freedom of collective recklessness. And what the President was saying at the time was, we need to think about what we mean by freedom. We need to choose a definition of freedom which is anchored in truth, and the way to manifest that choice, is by addressing our energy problem.
He had a profound understanding of the dilemma facing the country in the post Vietnam period. And of course, he was completely hooted, derided, disregarded.
BILL MOYERS: And he lost the election. You in fact say-
ANDREW BACEVICH: Exactly.
BILL MOYERS: -this speech killed any chance he had of winning reelection. Why? Because the American people didn’t want to settle for less?
ANDREW BACEVICH: They absolutely did not. And indeed, the election of 1980 was the great expression of that, because in 1980, we have a candidate, perhaps the most skillful politician of our time, Ronald Reagan, who says that, “Doom-sayers, gloom-sayers, don’t listen to them. The country’s best days are ahead of us.”
And it made me think, is GWB really that bad of a president. He appears on television a bit more subdued, no brash talk, a slight hang of the head and I feel sorry for him. I never voted for him, I have never agreed with his policies yet still I feel sorry for him. Because he is was the President that we wanted him to be. He did what he said he was going to do and we agreed went him. He didn’t tell us the downside, but then we never asked.
We never asked were his figures accurate about the war. We never asked how we were going to pay for it. We never questioned if it was prudent to go on a spending spree and act like everything was fine after thousands died in 9/11 and then thousands more died in Afghanistan and Iraq. It’s like knowing that you are sick but you go to a doctor who barely looks at you but gives you a clean bill of health. In your heart you know he’s wrong but you want to believe his diagnosis anyway because if you press and have him really investigate you don’t know if you can handle the bad news.
If a President tells us that he will have to raise taxes in order to fix some of the things that are bothering us how will that sit with us? What if he really did need to raise taxes? That was the downfall of Bush 41 and I’m sure that Bush 43 decided it wouldn’t be his fate. The phrase of choice for the last few months has being speaking truth to power and in a democracy the power is in the hands of the people. Who can speak the truth to us and still get elected?
Bush appealed to our greed in 2000 and 2004. He read us and gave us what we wanted to get whatever it was he wanted and now we want to blame him for the state that America is in today.
We also want to blame the media for not being fully on their job. They eagerly printed everything that Bush’s administration said without thoroughly checking the facts or getting a second source. They didn’t follow up as deeply as they could have on a lot of news stories and on a lot of news shows entertainment is given equal time and attention as other news.
So everyone was sleeping during the last several years and a lot of the American people are mad and distrusting of our government and our news media. It’s not that they don’t deserve it, but like the saying goes, when you point your finger there three others pointing back at you. In order for a democracy to work we have to be less passive and more engaged. The media is a business and they will give us pabulum or crap depending on which way the wind blows but they won’t give us something that won’t sell. We as a people have to decide what matters to us most and be willing to work for it, sacrifice some things and do more than just vote.
Sometimes a president is bad because of the decisions that he makes and the things he allows and disallows. The people suffer the cost of the actions of the government but the people are sometimes also willing participants.