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Posts Tagged ‘Speeches’

In addition to the fact that our “allies” look like something from Mad Max–and some consist of al Qaeda--I am struck that we’ve not heard an Oval Office address.  I cannot recall a military action in my lifetime without some run up, a domestic debate, some sign off through resolution or otherwise by the Congress, and a solemn case made to the American people by the President.

Obama, instead, allowed himself to be persuaded this was a good idea–scared perhaps the Clintons would undermine him for inaction–and then he was off to Brazil.  Obama seems to think he could get into war as an afterthought, much like his appointment of strange leftist weirdos such as Van Jones.  He forgot forces on the right and left have an opinion about this.  And he really forgot that he was not elected to start “wars of choice” but rather to end them.

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Bush’s defense of his more controversial stands in the war on terror has been Clintonian. First, he denies that something is taking place. Then, when that something–in this case, the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” is exposed–he simply denies without explanation a reasonable characterization by critics: these techniques constitute torture. Now, I do not support torture. And, more precisely, I do not support official policies that sanction torture. There may be times to forgive ultra vires actions after the fact; this is different from allowing them in advance. These techniques and policies may be defensible. But Bush does not show respect to his critics or the citizens who elected him by providing such a defense. He never says, for instance, these are regrettable incidents of war, truly dirty deeds that are absolutely necessary. Instead, he just repeats: this is necessary, and also this is not torture. No one is fooled, not even his supporters. This kind of rhetoric has been his hallmark in other contexts; for example, he denied that his nation-destroying amnesty proposal was in fact amnesty.

Framing policies is important. There is nothing wrong with describing them in a manner that reasonably describes them in a way that is favorable. But simply denying reality and ignoring critics and proffering labels instead of reasoned arguments is a sign of decline. It’s a sign of decline in the Presidency and also in the citizens who accept this descent into unreason. Reagan, in describing his various controversial policies–the arms race or cutting taxes and spending, for example–did not deny reality, but instead explained how these policies were necessary and likely to work towards the common good. He acknowledged their essence and did not, for lack of a better word, lie.

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Noah Sweat in the Mississippi legislature giving perhaps the most skilled “political” speech in history:

My friends,

I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But;

If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

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Notice how much more coherent, articulate, and balanced his rhetoric is compared to our current crop of “conservatives.” In particular, notice that he recognizes our country’s earlier failings without rejecting these failings as something that wipe away all moral legitimacy to our past, as Bush and Rice have done repeatedly, comparing the savage atrocities of Iraq’s savage insurgents with the brave soldiers on both sides of America’s War for Independence and Civil War. Finally, he is far more steeped in the traditions of Western Civilization, quoting Tocqueville, C.S. Lewis, Whittaker Chambers,  Isaiah, Tom Paine, and Jesus Himself.

How far the quality of our political life has declined in my own lifetime.  Transcript here.

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