Friday, September 29, 2006

Still Killing the Messenger

Kelson linked to a CNN article from 2003 that said the following:
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said Tuesday he would not retract his criticism of President Bush's diplomatic efforts on Iraq, despite criticism from the White House and top Republicans.

"I don't know that anyone in this country could view what we've seen so far as a diplomatic success," said Daschle, D-South Dakota.

Daschle told unionized public employees Monday that he was "saddened that this president failed so miserably at diplomacy that we're now forced to war."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tennessee, called Daschle's remarks "deeply disappointing" and "counterproductive."

"Our men and women literally are in a countdown before fighting is initiated and any remarks that their lives in some way have been compromised is irresponsible," Frist said.
It was Frist's comments that got my underoos in a twist.

It bothers... no, it annoys the shit out of me when I see someone admonishing people for speaking the truth, as they see it, simply because their opinions may be contrary to military actions - as if this is "irresponsible" because it may hurt our troops' morale.

Please. Daschle wasn't at a military "pep rally," was he? I don't think so. He was doing his duty, in my opinion.

If the United States Senate Minority Leader says that our President's poor diplomacy has lead to an unnecessary war, then maybe we should consider the possibility that the problem is with the President. Just a thought.

I mean, really, whatever happened to "Don't kill the messenger?"

7 comments:

James Meeley said...

I agree with that, but would advise to not overlook the possibility that this is all just a slickly timed shot, to improve the Democrates chances of putting who they want in key Congressinal seats during this upcoming election.

We all might have differing views on what President Bush has done (i.e. concerning Iraq), but we shouldn't let how we feel overpower our knowing that such comments might not be used simply to "speak the truth as we see it." In the game of politics, every utterence by a politician should be held up to the harsh light of scrutiny... even if we happen to agree with it.

West said...

re: "I agree with that, but would advise to not overlook the possibility that this is all just a slickly timed shot, to improve the Democrates chances of putting who they want in key Congressinal seats during this upcoming election.

We all might have differing views on what President Bush has done (i.e. concerning Iraq), but we shouldn't let how we feel overpower our knowing that such comments might not be used simply to "speak the truth as we see it." In the game of politics, every utterence by a politician should be held up to the harsh light of scrutiny... even if we happen to agree with it."


I haven't forgotten, which is why I'm fussing about Frist's words.
The criticism against Daschle was that his words were "irresponsible." I don't see how they were. If anything, they say what too few have been willing to say from the very beginning.

Even if the Democrats are saying that for political gain, which is worse - speaking the truth for political gain or painting anyone who disagrees with The Administration as unpatriotic?

In my opinion, it's the latter, by a mile.

James Meeley said...

Even if the Democrats are saying that for political gain, which is worse - speaking the truth for political gain or painting anyone who disagrees with The Administration as unpatriotic?

It all depends on how you look at it.

It's pretty obvious how you feel, so I don't think there's any reason to question it. It's your right and you are free to feel as you do.

As for me, which is worse? I don't know. I certainly see how (and why) you feel and know it's valid, but you could aslo see it another way.

Calling someone "unpatriotic" for speaking their mind certainly make you look foolish, but unless you are actively preventing them from saying it (which isn't the case here), it's no more "bad", than if someone were to name call you. You know it's not true, so who cares what they think of you.

Now, using the truth to further a political agenda, well, that could have serious reprocussions for a lot of people. Besides, the truth shouldn't merely be a tool for those seeking power and privilage. Perhaps if they spoke the truth, with no thought to personal or political gain, our supposed leaders might show us that they truly care about the people, not just how they can use them. Besides, if you don't really believe what you are saying, with only your own political agenda spurring you to do so, you undermine th truth itself to some degree. As it's no longer about the truth, but manipulation.

So, looking at it like this, which is really worse? Personally, I'd say it's a pretty equal unsavory turn of events, no matter which side of the issue you come down on.

We should publicly castigate people for speaking up with how they feel on an issue, but neither should furthering your own personal or political goals be the main thrust for why you would speak up with the truth, either.

Accepting one act of wrong-doing over another, simply because we find it "less offensive", really doesn't do anyone any good. We should refuse to accept either one.

Just one man's feelings... ;)

West said...

I see what you're saying, but a competition between a valuable truth and an infectious lie seems like no contest, to me.

That's what I see here.

I believe that the slap-happy method of applying the "unpatriotic" label has serious implications and feeds on on the worst of us.

War is serious. Talking about the short-comings that lead us to an unnecessary war is worthwhile, to me.

I think the principles you mention are perfectly valid. I just don't think this situation is that deep.

Kelson said...

re: "I agree with that, but would advise to not overlook the possibility that this is all just a slickly timed shot, to improve the Democrates chances of putting who they want in key Congressinal seats during this upcoming election."

Oh my gosh! You're right! A Democrat said something negative about the Iraq War to gain seats in the November 2006 congressional election.... in March 2003.

Sorry, not convinced. I think if the Democrats could plan that far ahead, we'd have gotten one in the White House two years ago.

Was it politics? Of course. But does that make it any less true that diplomacy failed to resolve the conflict with Iraq? It it worse to speak an unpopular truth simply because one might conceivably make use of it, or is it worse to attempt to stifle debate?

The response from Frist and others is a great example of the "Anyone who questions my side is un-American" pattern which high-profile conservatives have been repeating an awful lot -- especially post-9/11. It's not a one-off silly thing someone said, it's standard rhetoric. It frames the debate not in terms of "My ideas for our country are better than my opponent's," but rather, "My opponent is a traitor to our country." You don't listen to traitors, you don't compromise with them, you certainly don't vote for them. You fight them, plain and simple. It polarizes people, leading to either complete deadlock or one party steamrolling over the other.

JMS wrote an interesting commentary a couple of years ago on the breakdown of checks, balances and civility in American politics that touches on this issue. I recommend giving it a read.

James Meeley said...

Was it politics? Of course. But does that make it any less true that diplomacy failed to resolve the conflict with Iraq? It it worse to speak an unpopular truth simply because one might conceivably make use of it, or is it worse to attempt to stifle debate?

I didn't say it was less true. Just that you should always be aware of the source truth comes from.

As West talked about on another thread, people today tend to make conclusions first, then look for facts that back it up (while ignoring ones that don't), instead of the other way around. Nowhere does that happen more than in politics.

Look at the recently "leaked" report about terrorism. Saying that Iraq has made more terrorism then it has stopped. If that was the full report, that's pretty damning stuff. But it wasn't, was it? It just a part of it. The part that, just by happenstance, turns out to be the part that gives the President and his Administration a "black eye."

I don't doubt that what was leaked is true. But I do wonder what is in the rest of the report. Why was only this one part leaked? Why not tell us the whole thing, instead of a seemingly pointed part alone? Seems awful convenient, doesn't it?

That's what I'm talking about. I don't doubt Daschle was telling the truth (at least, the truth as he believes it). I also don't dispute that to call him "unpatriotic" over it is pretty stupid and wrong. But in politics, you should never just accept anything at face value. Even if you agree with it. Doing so is more of what is polarizing the American political landscape, as well as the people, more than anything else.

West said...

Usually, such documents are pretty hefty.

If you want people to know about one or more important parts of it, then you summarize them.

If that information was leaked out-of-context, THEN we've got cause to shake our fingers at the leaker(s). Otherwise, what's there to complain about - not in theory, but in current reality?

As far as political motivations are concerned, I agree that it'd be nice if we could be sure that everything anyone ever does is for the "right" reasons.

But political gain isn't necessarily the worst reason for someone to do the right thing. It ain't the best, either, but consider that our system is set up FOR that to BE the primary motivator.

"Do what your constituents want or what's in their best interests or they won't give you back your power, next term."

*shrugs*

That's a big, deliberate part of our political process.

I'll complain more when I see people doing the wrong thing for the wrong reasons.