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...a sweatshop of moxie

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Just Do It

The last time I read an opinion piece in a newspaper by a sitting President of the United States, was George W. Bush's Wall Street Journal piece on the incoming Democratic Congress in 2007.

He wrote then:

Our Founders believed in the wisdom of the American people to choose their leaders and provided for the concept of divided and effective government. The majority party in Congress gets to pass the bills it wants. The minority party, especially where the margins are close, has a strong say in the form bills take. And the Constitution leaves it to the president to use his judgment whether they should be signed into law.

That gives us a clear challenge and an opportunity.
If the Congress chooses to pass bills that are simply political statements, they will have chosen stalemate. If a different approach is taken, the next two years can be fruitful ones for our nation. We can show the American people that Republicans and Democrats can come together to find ways to help make America a more secure, prosperous and hopeful society. And we will show our enemies that the open debate they believe is a fatal weakness is the great strength that has allowed democracies to flourish and succeed.

To the new members of the 110th Congress, I offer my welcome--and my congratulations. The American people have entrusted us with public office at a momentous time for our nation.
Let them say of these next two years: We used our time well.

Barack Obama doesn't want two years of politicking. He wants everything done in 2 weeks.

He wrote in the Washington Post today:

That's why I feel such a sense of urgency about the recovery plan before Congress. With it, we will create or save more than 3 million jobs over the next two years, provide immediate tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, ignite spending by businesses and consumers alike, and take steps to strengthen our country for years to come. [...]

These are the actions Americans expect us to take without delay.They're patient enough to know that our economic recovery will be measured in years, not months. But they have no patience for the same old partisan gridlock that stands in the way of action while our economy continues to slide. So we have a choice to make. We can once again let Washington's bad habits stand in the way of progress. Or we can pull together and say that in America, our destiny isn't written for us but by us. We can place good ideas ahead of old ideological battles, and a sense of purpose above the same narrow partisanship. We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity and, together, write the next great chapter in our history and meet the test of our time.

The comparison in message is not that stark.

Both sitting Presidents invoke our Founders -- that's usually done to prey on Americans' sense of needing to better themselves each and every generation. Not just as a people, but as a country. Each chapter of American history has to be loftier than the next, so each president tries to make sure his administration is not the one "to let down the side".

What is stark are the platitudes written by Barack Obama, unhighlighted above. It's like he has not been able to come out of campaign mode, and his writing (once filled with wiry energy, and elegance) has become stilted beyond belief.

He began each sentence in the middle of the piece with "Now is the time to...", in what I presume he meant to sound more Patton than Eisenhower. Charge up the troops! Get them to believe your message! Be inspiring by aspiring!

Bush's message was categorically different in tone, though he too employed a rhetorical device. Instead of the rising alarmism that Obama has in each sentence, he used the self-confident: "I believe...".

Though his emphasis was, as ever, on the military defence of our country, Bush did touch on the pressing economic situation which, with 20/20 hindsight, now seems portentous to me. He was sending a hidden code that Democrats would probably not work well with Republicans in the next years, fearing the public would only hold the President accountable.

Well, I hold both he and that do-nothing Congress highly accountable, but in Bush's case, he had a handy (if cynical) out: 'The economy was fine when we Republicans were in charge, but went completely downhill in the last 2 years of my administration'.

Since President Obama doesn't have that handy out, he is laying himself completely bare in the first two weeks of his administration. There is not even a pretense to calming the nation now.


Ironically, of course, this is the tone ascribed to President Bush during the heady, awful days following the attack on American soil in 2001. The Patriot Act and other system-altering legislation passed in record time. A war on two fronts was announced, and Congress didn't blink.

The public who were against these measures, which later included the distancing of media from the Bush Administration (accused as they constantly were by progressives of "carrying Bush's water"), said this was rank warmongering.

So tell me: what is it today, but that very note of urgency, so pregnant with panic if acts are not taken immediately, if not alarmism? What is this situation if not taking advantage of an opportunity, as Barack Obama wrote, using another meaning of the word "opportunity".

"We can act boldly to turn crisis into opportunity."

Both the freedom of our country and the economic stability of our country mean everything to the world's foremost superpower. One without the other is unthinkable. It's therefore inevitable that the President leading the nation would sound the warning bells with the full force at his disposal.

Just don't tell me one was warmongering, whereas the other is compassion on stilts.

Let's be honest for once, about what both these op-eds mean.

They want to protect their country by first protecting their legacy as Presidents. To do that, they must plant an idea that others are actively preventing them from implementing their plans, and it's not their fault if it all goes bang.

Mission accomplished.

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  • ...compassion on stilts.

    Maybe after a flood--Obama's high water mark for compassion according to some. Stilts may help him wade through what piles up in DC, but they're a terrible idea for getting around after an ice storm.

    Brava Victoria. As you point out, GWB's written words will shape his legacy. Now if only those who mocked and derided his simplicity could admire it in the future.

    By Blogger chickenlittle, at Thu Feb 05, 01:03:00 pm GMT-5  

  • OT, I hope all went well for you Thursday, Vic...

    By Blogger Ron, at Fri Feb 06, 07:35:00 am GMT-5  

  • Nice analysis.

    This is the sort of thing that demonstrates the lighter-than-air rhetoric we've been hearing. "Change"--yes, but micro metric change. The big difference is that the messenger talks real purty.

    By Anonymous Starless, at Fri Feb 06, 09:55:00 am GMT-5  

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