Monday, June 11, 2007

Courage and Leadership

"The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived, and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic ... Belief in myths allows the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought. (Let us) move on from the reassuring repetition of stale phrases to a new, difficult, but essential confrontation with reality."
  JFK  commencement, Yale University June 11, 1962.

These words about the nature of our political debate and the society that has produced it were noted yesterday in a blazing critique.   Peter Birkenhead in Salon praises John F. Kennedy as a leader, full of real courage and above all, self-doubt and humility that identified him for history as a great leader.  The contrasting example is portrayed as he eloquently describes the quality of today’s leadership as confronting 

“…reality with a vengeance, or, more accurately, ignore it all together, as Ron Suskind noted in "The One Percent Solution," when he famously quoted a White House aide dismissing journalists and historians as "the reality-based community."

Today’s leadership and indeed today’s society has embraced luxury, comfort, and are 

“Pumped up by steroidic pseudo-confidence and anesthetized by doubt-free sentimentality,”

so much that 

“they are incapable of feeling anything authentic and experiencing the world.”

Birkenhead, speaking of the current Republican candidates for President with the exception of John McCain:

"They puff up their chests and bray in the absolutist style of the guy who got us into the biggest mess of our lifetime. They clumsily and desperately make up facts, conflate enemies, and endorse the worst kinds of behavior, all to seem more certain than the next guy that evil is all around us. They present themselves as even less troubled by reality than our freedom-frying, deaf, dumb and blind dauphin. And at the same time they seem excruciatingly un-free, as if they're straining against the straitjackets of political convention.

Our current presidential candidates could do us all a favor and read the words of a president who had to wear a confining back brace every day and who would often wince in pain, slump with doubt, and exhibit all sorts of human flaws -- but also gave the impression that he could swim three miles in the South Pacific if he had to, even in his suit and tie. Someone who stood up to the fear-mongers of his day with courageous doubt, who knew firsthand that the closest thing there is to absolute evil is absolutism itself."

Again today, we find that Senate Republicans bray “Politics!” when ever the Democratic majority tries to hold them accountable.  A simple vote of no-confidence in Attorney “Private” Gonzales was stonewalled by partisan chest beating, braying senators crying about “political theater.” Can we really believe in a Congress whose profile of courage is to place party loyalty and politics above service to the nation?  How can anyone be proud of a nation and a government that is so tawdry and panders to the basest of political spectrum.  I’d like the Congress to show some courage, some honesty, and some leadership.  I’d like to be proud of our leaders, not ashamed of their actions, words and deeds. 

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