Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Weekly Podium: "Battling The Contentiousness"

Looking at the current political and social state of America, one can see that most of the general public is in a cynical, pessimistic mood toward our nation and its leaders. The Republicans have lost a lot of popularity amongst voters, and the Democrats are in power due to being the only other option available. Neither party is worthy of glowing praise for being upbeat, positive and eager to end the contentiousness.

Much of the blame can be based upon the war in Iraq, and how it has been handled by the powers that be. These powers that be are not just the ones in the White House, but the ones on Capitol Hill and on the evening news.

Let it be known that I, personally, like George W. Bush, and I think he is intelligent, and a very good and well-meaning human being. However, I have never seen a president and his staff be so incompetent at handling the media spin. Nor have I seen anyone who lacked the ability to sell an agenda the way Bush has been unable to sell the war in Iraq.

The mishandling of the sale of the Iraq policy to both Congress and the American public has caused Bush to have problems selling other policies. The problems we’re facing abroad make Bush seem incompetent as a leader, and call his other policies into question.

The public sees that we’re struggling (not losing, mind you) in Iraq, and they instantly assume that we must be struggling at home. This is why the general public thinks that, despite the evidence to the contrary, our economy is somehow sinking quickly, and we’ll soon enter the next Great Depression.

The truth is, our economy is very strong, especially when you consider that we are fighting a war without having converted to a wartime economy. Another truth that many do not realize is that most of the troops overseas do not feel that we are losing the war in Iraq. They know the harsh realities of war (which is something most Americans seem to be forgetting), and all they ask for is support while they fight for victory.

However, you cannot completely blame George W. Bush for his lack of success in implementing his policies in Iraq. The liberal mainstream media, in general, has been completely irresponsible in the statements they have made throughout the coverage of the war. This irresponsibility also applies to their portrayal of Bush, as well as conservatives in general. They have managed to spin the news to fit their own agenda, and the public has bought into it.

Generally speaking, the mainstream media has been marginally successful in attempting turn this war into another Vietnam. A lot of the reasoning behind this is because these comparisons to a memorable American military failure create hysteria, which in turn, create ratings. Some say that the media simply voices what the American public is thinking. However, it is one thing to voice people’s concerns - it’s another thing to exploit those concerns and find any reason to validate them in order to raise your network’s ratings or increase your publication’s readership.

I often chat about politics with a gentleman named Hunter Golden, who is a former aide to 2008 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. He and I have spent the past 10 days debating the contentiousness in modern-day American politics, and if this can be stopped with a new face in the White House come 2008.

We both came to the agreement that there is a certain mold that our next leader must fit in, and we must look to the past to find this mold. That mold is the one defined by Ronald Reagan. Someone who is a forward-thinking, visionary politician that does not allow themselves to be distracted from the main objective. A person who focuses on the important matters, and can handle the media pressure, as well as sell his or her policies.

In comparing Bush’s inability to sell a policy to Reagan’s “salesmanship”, Golden stated, “The Social Security reform bill should have been cookies. Give that bill to Reagan, and it’d have been through and done in three weeks. Not because Reagan brings any sort of genius to the bill that it doesn’t already have, but because the guy knew how to sell the American public - the fundamental reason Iraq has been a failure is that Bush never once was effective at selling the war at home. A few questions we might want to ask ourselves: Why are there no ‘heroes’ in this war? Why aren’t we seeing parades for those heroes? Simple propaganda like that just hasn’t been done to keep people’s support up. FDR spent millions upon billions on propaganda for World War II, and even courted private industry to support it as well. He mobilized all sectors of the American economy to fight that war.”

He and I both share the belief that what is missing from our political landscape is a high-profile figure who is focused on what is right for America as we move forward into the future, and makes decisions based upon that focus.

“What we’re sorely lacking right now are Reagan-style politicians. Both parties have no ‘vision’. They’re mired in petty squabbles and the peripheral dominates everything.” Golden opined, “Some would disagree, but I don’t see abortion as being one of those fundamentally important issues. It’s always going to be up for debate. Issues like that though, and our divisiveness around them, hurt us from looking at the big picture. I think that’s what is going to trigger the big turnaround in America today.”

Golden’s viewpoint is one that is shared by many people I know, both liberal and conservative.
In two years, what I believe we will need in the White House is a “great communicator”, which is one of Reagan’s enduring nicknames. Someone who can clearly convey the message they are trying to send, as well as the message of their respective party. This is a key quality we must keep in mind when choosing our next president, and I hope those who are reading remember this come November 2008.

Golden agreed with that sentiment, and referred to his party’s need for that great communicator when he stated, “We need someone who can recommunicate Republican values again. Denny Hastert was an awful choice for speaker of the house. Bill Frist has the charisma of a thumb tack. The minority leadership is even worse. Neither Dole or Bush, while very likeable, were good communicators. We really need one.”

Along with the ability to communicate a point of view, I think that we are also lacking politicians with a dynamic, take-the-bull-by-the-horns mentality. Someone who takes a definitive stance on an issue, makes that stance well-known, and proceeds to solve the issue in a way that is best for America - not just what is best for their poll numbers. In other words, someone who has a mentality that is opposite of someone like John Kerry, circa 2004. It was Kerry’s inability to take a definitive stance on anything that ensured his defeat.

If you look at some of the great leaders of the past, you will notice that they had similar qualities to those I mentioned previously. They sold their agendas well, focused on the overall picture, and were usually undeterred by smaller, petty issues. They also had a public persona of a leader. They were looked up to as role models and icons for all Americans.

Some took on the public persona of a father figure, like Ronald Reagan and FDR. They portrayed the image of someone who took care of America and that would provide guidance to our nation, like a good father would do for his son. However, these compassionate image were also tempered by an ability to push their agenda into fruition, because they were doing it for the good of America - not merely for the praise of the pundits, or the five-point increase in their approval rating.

Where’s our modern-day Fiorello LaGuardia, smashing a collection of seized illegal slot machines with a sledgehammer off of a barge and into the Hudson River? Where’s our version of FDR, speaking to the public via fireside chats and portraying an image of strength while sitting in a wheelchair? Where’s our Ronald Reagan, denouncing our enemies at the gates that lead into their territory?

Where is that leader, who takes America by the hand, and single-handedly leads America in the right direction - without consulting his CNN poll numbers, first?

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