dowding the president

It’s fairly obvious, but for those of you who aren’t aware, my father and I are completely opposite when it comes to personal politics. We debate all the time on this blog, but it’s all in good humor and I think it provides a nice intellectual outlet for both of us. As is expected then, the Maureen Dowd quote in my previous post raised his eyebrows, and my response started to get long, so I thought I’d make it into a post.

Three points that I will bring together in the end in a witty and insightful way (I hope):

1. I hate rhetoric. I value open discussion, open-mindedness and hearty dialogue. I love when people can consider all sides of an argument, think through the issues and then come to a conclusion. I like to listen and be listened to, and I don’t respect those who are unable to listen to both sides without becoming judgmental and haughty. Nor do I respect those who speak in grand, vague, expansive terminology without the balance of facts, truth and real-life experiences.

2. I find people who will never admit to being wrong generally disagreeable and untrustworthy. Part of being a restaurant manager is the uncomfortable task of confronting people when they have screwed up. I can instantly respect someone who owns up to their mistakes, but rarely trust someone who I know to be lying. Yesterday I got pulled over for speeding on my way to the gym. When the cop came and asked me about it I basically said, “Yeah, I know I was speeding.” He responded, “You’re the first honest person I’ve talked to today, everybody else has got an excuse,” and then he let me go.

3. I think it’s totally natural for people to change their mind about important issues. I have personally changed my mind about a myriad of issues during the past five years. I sleep well at night knowing even if I am wrong about some things, I am considering them, and I believe myself to be a personally honest person. Does that make me dishonorable? Morally unsound? As was said during the Bush-Kerry fight of 2004, “wishy-washy”? Frankly, I don’t care, because I know that I am being honest with myself, and honesty is everything to me. I think my values have grown and developed over the past few years. I am a better friend, a more accepting person, slower to judge. I am terribly imperfect, but so are we all. We are all human for God’s sake, and the fundamentalist rhetoric of some of our nation’s leaders just disgusts me.

A few weeks ago I heard the president speaking about the Middle East conflict and general nation-building. His rhetoric was so unmistakably religious it sickened me. He spoke of bringing light into the dark corners of the world as if the U.S. was the literal messiah. Strayed as I am from religious ties, I still don’t want to hear my politicians claiming God’s will or favor on what seem like senseless, misguided attacks on a country that, albeit had a ruthless dictator, but was certainly no worse than the governments of North Korea, Iran, our “ally” Saudi Arabia and several African countries. Yet we aren’t attacking their infrastructures, we aren’t attempting to bring peace and light and joy and the American way to North Korea, and any well-read person knows that their citizens are far more repressed than the citizens of Iraq have ever been. I am not advocating more conflict, I am just trying to make the point that based on Bush’s rhetoric, we ought to be invading a lot more countries.

So I have a lot of suspicion about Bush in general. His ties to big oil, his alliance with Dick Cheney, former board member for Halliburton (currently making millions upon millions in Iraq), his lack of transparency, the planned audiences to answer questions “the right way” at townhall meetings, his use of religious rhetoric, they all rub me the wrong way. I’m not saying other politicians don’t rub me the same wrong way, they do, but the fact is Bush is the president. He should be held to the highest level of scrutiny of any person in this country. He should be without blame, he should be honest, he should be open. There are no weapons of mass destruction, Iraq could be sliding into civil war, we have lost thousands of American soldiers and directly and indirectly caused the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqis, and our president still speaks as if this is a noble and justified war.

I’m afraid if I knew Bush in person, I would not stand by him. I would not be friends or want anything to do with a person so mired in controversy over potential personal gain for himself and his friends regarding this war. It would be one thing if he had an explanation, but unfortunately, all the American people are allowed to hear from this administration is the rhetoric.

5 Responses to dowding the president

  1. Adrianne says:

    I think being open to changing your mind is part of personal growth. Even with the things that one believes to be absolute truth, there is room for understanding and thinking to evolve. For example, the Christian faith (talking about religion and politics, I love it). There are several things that I hold to be absolutely true. The rest makes for good discussion and the opportunity to pursue a journey toward God. If I believed everything my Baptist pastor in Iowa told me and refused to think for myself (sorry, Baptists) I would be in a much different place than I am right now.

    As for Bush, ugh. I don’t know if I’ve paid enough attention to him to enter into an intellectual discussion. Mostly I just turn off the TV when he comes on. I do think it’s a bit naive of some to think that a government exists that isn’t corrupt; ours will never be an exception. Those who think that Bush is God’s messenger to the world are sadly mistaken. Darn Bible Belt voters.


  2. Jack says:

    Conservatives tend to vote for a person because of what he believes in and the policies they expect him to put in place, not because of how he talks or how he looks. George Bush is probably the worst speaking president we’ve ever had, at least in my memory. He’s not in office because of his speaking ability; he’s in office in spite of it. Having said that, why are those on the left so fixated on Bush the man versus Bush’s policies and goals? I will answer my own question – it’s because it’s easier for them to demonize the man than to provide a coherent argument against the policies.

    Maureen Dowd is a master at this type of character assassination. Bush is stupid, Bush is stubborn, Bush lied, Cheney is evil, Halliburton is evil, Kerry is smart, Clinton is good, and on and on. I challenge you to find me just one column where Ms Dowd, on a political matter, argues a position on its merits rather than by belittling and demonizing those on the other side. You will be hard pressed to do so.

    So, Laura, my advice to you, as you embark on your community columnist adventure, is to not use Maureen Dowd as your role model. If you are making a political point, do it on the merits with facts, data, and logic. If you force yourself to do that, you may be surprised to wake up one day and find yourself leaning a little bit to the right. 

  3. laurafern says:

    Fine, I almost unilaterally disagree with Bush’s policies. The man (and the people around him who are even more frightening than him himself) make the policies. It seems that in the past four years we have made the Middle East far more unstable than it was in the 1990’s, not to praise Clinton, but it’s true.

    I am certainly not using Maureen Dowd as a role model! That is so crazy, I haven’t read any of her books and rarely read her column. I liked three paragraphs out of one column because I felt the language summarized something I’ve found difficult to describe about Bush’s rhetoric.

    Your quest to make me lean to the right would need to involve a complete reorganizing of priorities for them – not going to happen. Indeed I share more values with some Democrats, but I don’t call myself that either. It’s just a lesser of two evils. I can say I will likely never be a person who supports gun rights, abortion restrictions, banning gay marriage, imposing religion in the government arena, broad slashing of social programs and this insane “war on terror.”

    Besides, I was not criticizing Bush on the WAY he speaks, and certainly not how he looks, but what he actually says. What a person says should reflect what he or she is actually like, should it not? Unless he is a fundamentally dishonest person, whether or not he is a poor speech-maker is less the issue than the fact that he says nothing of value or inspiration (in my opinion). It could be poorly put but well thought out, or badly said but inspired.

  4. Braden says:

    Hey Laura!

    First, it was great to see you at Rachel and Joe’s wedding. At the wedding it occured to me that it seemed like a long time since we had last seen each other, which of course is absolutely true. It had been at least three years, and although it never seems like time passes particularly fast in grad school, occasionally I am shocked by the rapid passage of time. Needless to say, the entire wedding was just such a shock.

    Second, congratulations on the community columnist gig! I’ll be looking forward to seeing the first column. You mentioned that you don’t yet know if the column’s content will be dictated by the editors, but, as its name implies, is it primarily supposed to be about local issues?

    Finally, I can’t help but comment on the Bush discussion. I think we (the collective American voter we) often underestimate the degree to which a president’s success or failure is dependent on their inherent intelligence and organizational skills. President Bush’s foreign policy (no comment on the domestic policy) is not without some degree of merit. It’s hard to argue that encouraging elections in the Middle East or toppling dictatorial regimes that abuse and oppress their own citizens is bad. In fact, invading Iraq, if you ignore all of the problems and disasters that have occurred over the past few years, is probably a policy that would have been advocated by a Democratic president (and was contemplated by the Clinton administration).

    The problem with Bush’s foreign policy is not the underlying goals, but his lack of intelligent leadership. Good leaders examine their policies critically, assess their success or failure, and make the changes necessary to acheive success. Bush appears incapable of analyzing the failures of his own policies. As a result, he doesn’t fire people like Rumsfeld. He compliments and rewards the wrong type of behavior. When I’m in a generous mood, I like to think of President Bush as a four-year-old, sitting in the corner of a room in the White House with his arms wrapped around his body muttering to himself, “how do I make it all stop.”

    As a Democrat, I detest most (if not all) of what has happened to this country over the past five years. However, I might be even more angry if I were a Republican. Finally I get a president and Congress elected that share my overall view of the world and the guy that the Republican leadership picks to run for president is too incompentent to complete even the most basic political tasks. It might be a little unfair to pick on Bush for his recent faux pas at the G8 conference, but if his childish approach to international politics is at all similar to the attitude he brings to any other policy decision it would go along way toward explaining the unmitigated disaster that has been his administration.

    By the way, I would feel complelely comfortable criticizing President Bush for the way he speaks. He has some of the most brillant speech writers that have ever worked at the White House and he still manages to make his ideas sound sophomoric.

    Sorry for the long post!

  5. laurafern says:


    First things first: The wedding was a shock to my system too. I kept thinking how instrumental the Cardinal had been in so many people’s lives. Most notably in the marriages and long-term close friendships, but even though I haven’t kept in close touch with a lot of people, it was completely natural to catch up with everyone as if no time had passed. I view my time as a Cardinal editor as one of the most important formative experiences in my life.

    Second, don’t apologize for the length of your post, I love dialogue here! On a side note, I feel a little nervous knowing you read this, as you’ve always been a superior participant in a debate. I now feel challenged to be a little more sure of what I am talking about when I start rattling off random thoughts.

    On to the President: I really hope my dad will respond to your thoughts, particularly that Republicans should feel disappointed with this presidency also.

    I agree about the lack of intelligent leadership. I have had really good and really terrible leaders in various jobs, and when I think about the difference in a workplace (particularly one where people spend lots of time interacting, like a restaurant or the Cardinal) depending on the capability of the leader, it’s enormous. This is completely obvious, but I don’t often think of Bush as a leader in that sense. That’s great fodder for future thought, writing and discussion. I’ll save my thoughts on that for later.

    As far as Bush’s foreign policies, I guess my issue is that a person shouldn’t use grand language describing the salvation of the planet lightly. We all know the U.S. isn’t going to invade North Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and then break up the various civil wars in Africa, but then we shouldn’t be speaking as if we have all the world’s answers.

    The attitude we take toward the world under Bush’s “leadership” is so condescending, like a bad missionary, and my spirit revolts against that sort of thing, to use some of my own grand rhetoric.

    There are about ten more issues I could address at this point, but it’s Friday at 4:30 pm and I’m heading home. =)

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