2003-08-01 / Columnists

The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky

The Rockaway Irregular by Stuart W. Mirsky

Why can’t we all just get along?" asked Rodney King after he was beaten senseless by a group of rogue white L.A. cops on the West Coast some hears back. King, an African American, posed a good question and I thought the same thing the other day when I received an e-mail message, for the second time in a row, purporting to be the resume of President George W. Bush. Of course, it isn’t his resume at all but a laundry list of negatives about him in the guise of a resume.

Reading it through, I was struck by the fact that each item seemed so weighty and that, taken together, they created an overall picture of a foolish and failed second-rater who had sneaked into office when most Americans weren’t looking! I did a point by point rebuttal and sent it back at once to those who had sent it to me, but I had little hope of their reading it. Why? Because this is not about facts anymore, except insofar as one can spin them to make a point. It’s about pushing an agenda, making a case, and getting the other side out of power, by any means necessary. It reflects a real breakdown in a democratic point of view that tells us we should respect our political opponents and electoral outcomes.

Among the "facts" in the alleged resume used in an effort to discredit the president: "I ran for Congress and lost."  This is actually presented as a serious claim intended to diminish Bush, as though losing an election were a disreputable outcome in itself. Indeed, more than 50% of the candidates in most races lose! Of course, many of these go on to win future political races, just as George W. Bush did.

"I bought an oil company but couldn’t find any oil in Texas." Here the entrepreneurial spirit is itself derided . . .  without any recognition that most politicians, unlike George W. Bush, never even try to make a go of it in the private sector in the first place, spending their entire professional lives, instead, feeding at the public trough . . . hardly the way the founding generation of this country envisioned things! And then there’s the little matter of not finding any oil in Texas, as though this, itself, was a demerit of note. In truth, most wildcatters come up dry and Texas is old hat, largely played out or already fully explored. But according to the writers of this "resume," it’s a mark against Bush that his foray into free enterprise failed in the Texas oil patch!

"Company went bankrupt shortly after I sold my stock." Well here’s a good one. According to the writer of this particular screed, Bush should have held on to the stock of a failing company and gone down with the ship! But doesn’t it make sense to sell out if you think the business you have shares in is doomed? That’s what markets are all about though the writer of this diatribe seems to have missed THAT point. (At least Bush didn’t play the futures market, like Hillary did in Arkansas, with borrowed money, parlaying a few thousand into a hundred thousand with the "guidance" of sophisticated market players the rest of us don’t usually have access to!)

"I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas government to the tune of billions of dollars in borrowed money."  Funny thing, Texas is not only still around, it’s operating quite soundly thank you . . . and under a Republican governor. It certainly didn’t file for bankruptcy while Bush was governor, or afterwards, and an argument can be made that cutting taxes there helped restore the state economically, just as it did the nation overall in the eighties under Reagan. Certainly no one can suggest Texas under Bush was in anything like the pickle big-spending Democratic governor Gray Davis has created for California where a statewide recall movement, in reaction to that governor’s bankrupting policies which led to a $38 billion shortfall (larger than the budgets of most nations!), has prompted an off-season election to replace him in September.

The list of allegations like this goes on and on, with more of the same. So what’s going on here? Obviously this is about spin, not substance. The "resume" is rife with charges like these, that seem to be damning but aren’t on closer examination. But people tend to believe what they want and facts, when it comes to George W. Bush, rarely seem to matter much to some folks. It’s about shaping the case to suit their pre-established views, not about what’s really happening or what’s best for this country.

We need to keep this in mind more and more as we are bombarded, almost daily, by attack-mode political diatribes like this one which purport to tell us the "facts". In the end, of course, it’s not about the facts at all, but about shaping opinion and winning elections. If the recent spate of Democratic broadsides is any indication, we may already be well on the way toward becoming a nation of lawyers and spinners, while those who wish us ill, from Osama to the leftwing ideologues in Europe and elsewhere, gleefully join in to help us tear apart the social fabric which makes us us!

"Why can’t we all just get along?" asked Mr. King. Perhaps because we’ve lost sight of the importance of respecting opposing political views and their proponents in this country . . . and of the importance of accepting the verdict of our own proven democratic process?

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