Tuesday, July 11, 2006

A Little Heart, A Lot of Brotherhood vs. the Politics of Fear

A recent interview in BusinessWeek with George Soros:

"The Bush Administration and the Nazi and Communist regimes all engaged in the politics of fear."

Do you really believe the Administration is a threat to democracy?

Yes, I really do believe that, and that is why I got involved in politics. By claiming to engage in a war against an unknown enemy that will never disappear... President Bush has appropriated excessive powers for the executive branch... undermining the division of powers that have been the mainstay of our democracy. In addition, he succeeded for a while in making any criticism of his policies appear as if it was unpatriotic. That undermines the first principle of an open society: critical thinking.

Your book dwells on the negative. Don't you run the risk of being perceived as a very wealthy Chicken Little?

I do. But I contend that we have become a feel-good society unwilling to face harsh reality. As a result, reality has become increasingly threatening.

Remember Lee Atwater? How ruthless he was? How harsh? How his words were so well chosen that they drilled their message into the hearts of the intended victims but sailed by everyone else?

Did you know that Bush was good friends with Atwater and worked across the hall from him during his father's campaign for president and encouraged his father to heed to Atwater's advice when it was cruel even to Bush Sr.? W learned from and repeatedly endorsed Atwater's tactics and practices. One of Atwater's lessons was repetition. Repeat a key phrase or idea from a variety of sources and people's disbelief will slowly deteriorate. You see this daily in DC with statements eminating from Rove's office delivered as talking points from the Speakers office, the RNC and various Rep candidates across the country.

Having been in that business and known the players - including Atwater - it's hard to be compassionate to Bush because he knows what he is doing. And I don't feel that I'm naive in this belief because I knew Atwater and felt the blows of his attacks and the pain of his victories. It was good training for Bush and there's no doubt that he was a quick and thorough learner.

Atwater came to recant what he had done.

In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater wrote:

My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The '80s were about acquiring -- acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn't I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn't I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don't know who will lead us through the '90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.

It took a fatal brain tumor to elicit Atwater's poignent repentence. I don't see anything short of that which could shake President Bush's repeated lies and reliance on Rove and others who daily repeat Atwater's worst traits.

Soros is right: there are harsh realities that are slipping away from us day by day by the repeated diversions, fear and bickering of the Bush Administration.

It's time for people in the news to return to being investigative reporters instead of repeaters of Administration stuff. Doesn't any newspaper or magazine have an investigative reporter and editor willing go after Rove and Bush and stand up to the harassment that is sure to come?