Left Right, Left Right So

by francine Hardaway on December 17, 2003

Left Right, Left Right

So let’s see. The common wisdom is that the Democrats are now doomed, because the economy’s better and Saddam Hussein is in custody. The talk shows are full of encomiums for Bush. But why?

Because we caught a guy with a toothache who was living in a black hole, and we are going to do everything short of torture him to get information?

What could he possibly know? He didn’t even have a phone.

He was getting his information by courier on an intermittent schedule. We still haven’t found his weapons of mass destruction. And we can’t prove that he was tied to the events of 9/11, which triggered the whole costly war on terrorism. Capturing him set off even more insurgency, especially since we have not turned him over to the Iraqis so they can try him themselves.

I’m uncomfortable with all the political posturing that has gone on around this event—that of the Republicans as well as the Democrats. There are real problems out there that we don’t have time to solve because we are focussing on a former figurehead, who is now of no use to anyone. Like the Israel-Palestine situation, and the Afghanistan situation, and the lack of affordable health insurance and the decline of the education system and the mysterious disappearance of Osama bin Laden and the fact that everyone in the world hates us and is competing with our fragile economy.

The politicians are powerless to solve any of these problems with their usual bags of tricks.

David Broder said it most succinctly on Sunday, when he was talking to Tim Russert on “Meet the Press”: politicians will have to get used to the fact that world events are out of their control, and that the best leader will be the one who makes the quickest, most adaptive response to the unexpected. Party lines no longer apply. Old party platforms no longer apply. How can you be a Democrat defending unions when the agreements reached could cause jobs to shift off-shore? How can you be a Republican and enact trade barriers to protect the steel industry? Indeed, how can you adhere to a strict party line in the chaotic world we live in?

Hmmmm. We will have to groom an entire new batch of leaders. The ones we have now are dedicated to slowing down just about every process they can, in an effort to reach consensus and compromise so they can declare victory to their constituents and get re-elected.

Their unwillingness to be entrepreneurial in their solutions, to take real risk, leads to botched legislation like the Medicare reform bill that just passed. These defective laws have a way of producing unintended consequences: perhaps the new law will drive all the private insurance companies out of the Medicare market, or perhaps it will cause the deaths of Americans who haven’t yet spent their deductibles on prescription medicines but still can’t afford to buy them and food in the same month.

I’ve been listening to William Novelli defend the AARP’s stand on this legislation. I find it difficult to forget that before he was the CEO of AARP, Novelli was the founder of Porter-Novelli, one of the country’s largest public relations firms. The firm was founded to apply marketing to health and social issues. Novelli’s an expert, his own bio says, in “social marketing.” This means the marketing of social policies and ideas.

We have quite a few experts in “social marketing” running around the government these days. The cart is before the horse; we have few social policies worth marketing, and no real experts in the development of social policy itself.

I’m sure Howard Dean is unelectable. I’m sure he has shifted positions on some issues. However, there are two things that cannot be taken from him: his brother died in Viet Nam, in an incident tangential to the war; and he has practiced medicine in the current environment. These two life experiences give him knowledge that determines his “left wing” politics.

In fact, because he has that knowledge, and expresses opinions based on his experience, the “right wing” talk shows have labeled him as “left wing.” What’s left? What’s right? What is truly conservative? Isn’t it preserving constitutional liberties, promoting free markets, and respecting man’s inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Then why are we detaining Muslims, killing children, and favoring the pharmaceutical industry?

Not trying to come down on one side or the other here – just trying to point out the futility of trying to apply the old labels to current events.


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