A Brief Retort to the “Bullshit” Call…

2010 September 1

by Roy W. Bakos

Over these past few weeks, my friend/ fellow Bull-Mooser Mankindof and I, have been engaging in a process where I make a statement or series of such and then he calls “bullshit” on me and responds with a series of statements of his own.  The first example was when I replied that the “President needs to grow a bigger set of balls” and the most recent  came when I changed my facebook status earlier today to say the following: “Splitting hairs between ‘combat operations’ and 50,000 ‘advisers’ and countless contractors does not make a war into peace just as calling a turd a steak does not transform the turd into NY strip…War is not Peace…bring home all of the troops now!”  I will attempt to further explain both of these positions which I believe to be very closely related.

Let me start by saying that I am a supporter of President Obama who worked on his campaign for the Presidency in both my home state of New York and elsewhere as a volunteer during the campaign in 2008.  The reasons why I supported him for the Presidency were my belief that he would do the following when elected: 1) end the war in Iraq;  2) draw down to sensible levels in Afghanistan and use our troops there to go after the criminals that organized the 9/11 attacks on the United States; 3) restore sanity to the US economy by repairing the damage done to it in the previous 28 years of de-regulatory insanity; 4) go after Wall Street to pay their fair share for their part in the financial meltdown; 5) get a comprehensive Health Care reform bill passed through Congress; 6) close down the illegal prison at Guantanamo Bay and simply bring criminals to justice; 7) stop allowing the CIA and other branches of the US government to commit torture;  8 ) severely restrict the parts of the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act that fly in the face of the Bill of Rights and the values that we say that we hold dear; and finally 9) move this country back away from Empire and return us to the Republic that we say that we are.

Unfortunately, the reality of this Presidency so far does not even come close to the rhetoric that drove the campaign for “Change.”  The reality is that we still (even after the end of “combat operations”) will have 50,000 troops in Iraq for some time.  The war in Afghanistan has been escalated.  Young Americans are still coming home wounded or in body bags and will be for some time and we still have not brought the people that attacked us to justice.  Guantanamo is still open and this Justice Department is trying to get the courts to allow for “indefinite detention” of suspects without charging them with a crime, expanding the power of the President to do what he wants with any “enemy combatant” and shit on the formerly sacrosanct Geneva Convention.  The Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act (which takes away habeus corpus from anyone, including citizens of the US, that is deemed to be an “enemy combatant”) are still in full democracy-chilling effect.  Finally, economic and health reform have only been dealt with in the most rudimentary matter and the corporations that were allowed to drive the debate on both of these issues are still firmly in charge of the show…we should have just called all of the “reforms” the United Healthcare Health Bill and the Visa and Mastercard Credit Reform Act and the Goldman Sachs Financial Reform Bill.

Let me also say here to all who say that “we are moving in the right direction” that I believe they are right in the sense that if McCain/Palin were elected, none of the things that have been done would have been done at all (half-assed as they were done) and that we would be in a much more freedom-chilling place than we are now.  That being said, I believe that this President is squandering his opportunity as a leader.  All of the nuance and uncertainty surrounding a given issue should be discussed when formulating a plan on how do deal with that issue but once you have chosen your plan, put it in place and effectively communicate what it is that you are doing.  Deal with detractors by showing the strengths of your arguments, not giving away the argument in an attempt to win them over.  If you want health care reform, start with single payer and deal down to a “Public Option.”  Formulate your plan with other party leaders, put a bill forward, and get it passed or let it die.  Debate the nuance of “combat operations” and “advisers” beforehand while you come up with a plan to end the war.  If you change your position and believe that you should now not end the war, tell the people why and then don’t end it.  If, after becoming President, you believe that we should be an Empire, tell the people why we should be and run on that.  Use the “Bully Pulpit” (a term coined by the original Bull-Mooser by the way) to tell the people the direction that you think we should be moving towards and then move us there at a speed that will get us to our destination faster than Moses got to Egypt.  This is what I mean by “growing a set of balls.”  Please just stop trying to redefine things in an attempt to appease both your supporters and detractors and do what we put you in office to do; lead.

2 Responses leave one →
  1. October 14, 2010

    I tend to run centrist, which means I don’t trust anyone. Which is a hard dollar when you also believe in American exceptionalism. But what it seems like to me is that Terry’s dead on about language creating red herrings for both sides, but it doesn’t really accomplish anything.

    * First of all, if Glenn Beck is in favor of pay-as-you go for the Fire Department, then he better take down that picture of Ben Franklin he likes to stand in front of, because Franklin established the Union Fire Company in 1736. Some services are just sensible for a municipality to run. Cops were mentioned; that’s a good one. Imagine if snowplows picked up their blades in front of homes or businesses that didn’t pay for it. I live in Elmwood Village, and I can pretty much stick out a broomstick and touch the houses on either side. It’s nt going to make me feel any better if my next door neighbor’s house catches on fire and the FD lets it burn down, but because of that, half of my place burns down too by the time the FD shows up to put my fire out. It’s silly.

    * That being said, Beck’s larger point is one of economic responsibility, and that strikes a chord. Even most liberals agree that there is a ton of fraud, abuse and waste in most entitlement programs, and that is true in the best of times. When people’s real incomes are dropping, and everybody knows someone out of work, and trillions in debt are run up every year, then it makes for an even easier target. David Paterson came in as a straight talker whose approval ratings were in the 50s well into last summer. What scuttled that? Taking stimulus money and giving every family $200 for every child on government assistance from 3-18 for “school supplies” right into their benefit cards, without restriction. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle had the courage to put out a story about how all the grocery stores on the edge of the city’s ATMs ran out of money, and that it was like Black Friday at WalMart on XBoxes and TVs. Maybe the money should have went for education, but it wasn’t just the Beckheads who saw red on how that one was handled. You look at the problems in Spain, France, Greece and Portugal, and it’s fair to wonder if that’s our canary in the coal mine.

    * There’s so many arguments, and this comes back to Terry’s point, that are useless in the larger sense. For example, I can make an argument that you absolutely can’t teach Creationism in public schools, due to the separation of church and state enumerated in the Constitution. But I can just as easily make an argument that if evolution proponents really believe in Darwin, then doesn’t support of social programs or entitlements for people who can’t help themselves, or for that matter endangered species, weaken the strain? It’s a reductionist argument, to be sure, and it’s a little too Spencerian for my taste, but it has a point, and none of that gets us anywhere.

    The real issue is a healthy nation and a healthy economy. Right now, we have neither. When we do, it’s funny how a lot of the nonsense goes away. In the 1950s, Ike kept the top tax bracket at 70%, threatened to call in the National Guard to enforce Brown v. Board, and had a great truce with labor that fed a lot of American families. Kennedy cut taxes, upped defense spending, and rallied the country around the space program as an example in the making of American excellence. It pulled the country out of recession.

    Neither of them would likely be allowed into their own parties today. And that’s because everyone’s lost sight of the ball. Specific issues aren’t as important if people have economic freedom.

    And that’s not going to change anytime soon. The elephant in the room now, which nobody wants to talk about, is the high cost of a college education. Twenty years ago, I was able to pay my way through school, own my own car, pay for my own car insurance, on waiting banquets three nights a week. And I still had spending money, and never took out one loan.

    Good luck being able to do that now.

    Clinton had 68% approval when he left. Reagan got Democrats to vote for him in ‘84 because the economy was roaring back.

    Right now, it seems to me that protesting and boycotting Target because they donate to one candidate, or holding rallies in the name of God, are both a lot of fiddling while Rome burns.

  2. Mankindof permalink
    October 17, 2010

    I think you intended this comment for a different article, which can be found here, but I’ll reply here.

    First a few quick things.
    1) The Union Fire Company was a volunteer fire department. Which, incidentally, still goes against Beck’s crusade against volunteerism, but which makes it a bad example for your point. Still, you and I agree that essential services should be provided to all, from the tax fund. That was, in fact, the general idea behind the “general welfare” provision of the Constitution. The founders agreed that it’s a good idea to have the government tax the population to provide for the general welfare of everyone.

    2) I think blaming Governor Patterson’s disapproval ratings on any one thing is reductionist, and misleading. You picked his gaff that you particularly disliked, and that’s fine, but I wouldn’t say that the rest of New Yorkers who disapprove of him do so because of the $200 check. Don’t forget his ridiculous list of new taxes (the obesity tax being a good one), the Aqueduct and World Series tickets scandals, the witness tampering scandal with the State Police, not to mention that idiotic statement that attributed his falling approval numbers to people getting nervous about too many African Americans being successful. Fiscal responsibility is a crucial issue, of course, and I’m not missing your point. But I’ll also point out that Beck isn’t really about fiscal responsibility necessarily. He’s first and foremost trying to increase his sphere of influence, and his second goal is to oppose anything Democratic or liberal.

    3) Your point about Darwinism is shaky. Also, you’re mainly applying his observations on natural selection to social circumstances, which is not something he did; Social Darwinism is, at best, a controversial topic. Aside: protecting endangered species does not run counter to natural selection because they have not been naturally selected; man-made factors like habitat destruction, pollution, and over-hunting have caused these species to become endangered. But more importantly, evolution and natural selection are proven scientific processes, and should be taught as such. Creationism is mythological bunk that has been scientifically disproven, and therefore should never be taught in a public school science class. Those who feel this way are not hypocrites wanting to help the disadvantaged in this country. And piling on top of that idea, some of our disadvantaged are in that place because of societal ills, not because of any sort of natural selection. The point is that you said you could easily make an argument along these lines, but your argument is predicated on the notion that people who understand the scientific principles of Darwin, subscribe to them as though they constitute a faith, like Christianity.

    Lastly, you wrote, “Specific issues aren’t as important if people have economic freedom.” I think you’re mostly right. What I think you mean by economic freedom is the freedom granted by having plenty of money, not unregulated free markets. If I’m wrong about that, please correct me. In other words, in good economic times, voters don’t give a crap about these issues that seem to take on so much importance in bad times. That’s probably quite true. The thing is, what ostensibly lies at the center of this fight — fiscal responsibility — is itself a bit of a red herring. Reagan wasn’t exactly fiscally responsible. He presided over economic improvement, and made people feel better about how the money was spent, but he ran up an unimaginably large deficit. Clinton was slightly better; the reason he created a surplus and balanced the budget was because he had to compromise with the Republican Congress. People don’t care about fiscal responsibility, really; they only care about financial success. Americans are perfectly happy to overspend, so long as they haven’t run out of money yet. And, in any case, the root of this whole fight isn’t really fiscal responsibility anyway. It’s all, and always has been, about the social issues. It’s racism and liberalism and Christianity vs. atheism and urbanism vs. ruralism and so on and so on. But in good economic times it’s easier to forget about these things because we numb ourselves with our leisure time indulgences.

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