Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I'm Not Listening!

There is no doubt that words are vitally important. Even though the media's obsession with the minute detail of individual words plays a major role in making the presidential campaign season feel even longer than it already painfully is. Already we have the press raptors soaring around Hillary waiting for her to slip and actually admit that her senate vote to initiate the Iraq war may have been wrong. Obama is learning quickly about the tricky nature of trying to support troops in a war he opposes (a lesson I learned with less significant consequence in this post on Think Worm).

Now the congress is in the midst of debating a 97-word non-binding resolution about the Iraq war. Even with it's brevity, pains were taken to express support for the work of the soldiers before calling for an end of that effort. I think that the resolution is a bit like having one's cake and eating it too, but at least it is an opportunity for every single representative to have his or her "hour in the shower" or at least five minutes at the microphone. With the obsession over words and the minutia of meaning, one would think that all the politicians would at least feign interest in hearing what comes of this debate. I wish that they were leading up to a vote on something that had some teeth, but I still think that the words at least tell us something about where the debate stands and where it might go. In other words, for better or for worse it is a start.

That is why I'm so disturbed and perturbed by the president's comments about this debate. He said

"I've got a lot to do, I'm not sure exactly what hours they'll be debating, but I've got a pretty full day tomorrow. I mean, it's not as if the world stops when the Congress does their duty."

"I already know what the debate is. I hear a lot of opinions, and a lot of people don't believe we can succeed in Iraq and therefore, I presume, want to get out."

Mr. President, an important part of your job is listening. The work of democracy fails when voices are ignored. Your not listening will not silence the voices, but your more than dismissive, indeed it is condescending, attitude forces the political debate to get more agitated, the volume must be increased. The virtue of patience I can applaud, but this seems a lot closer to stubbornness.

Non-binding resolutions may seem to be worth less than the paper they are written on, but they are at least a record of opinion. With any grace, it can also be the beginning of meaningful political dialogue that will lead to change. So Mr. President, please take your fingers out of your ears...

Here are the words of Obama, first from the speech:

"We ended up launching a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged -- and to which we now have spent $400 billion and have seen over 3,000 lives of the bravest young Americans wasted."

And then the follow-up explanation:

"I was actually upset with myself. Their sacrifices are never wasted; that was sort of a slip of the tongue as I was speaking. The sacrifices they have made are unbelievable. What I meant to say was those sacrifices have not been honored by the same attention to strategy, diplomacy and honesty on the part of civilian leadership."

In Obama's words I think I hear what he intends to say and I, for one, don't hear an insult of the troops. If anything, I hear him grieving for the senseless loss of life, compounded by the dedication, loyalty and patriotism of those who died. We can choose to pick apart words to spin for meaning that we want to hear (or more likely just use against the speaker), or we can listen with open minds and try to find where we might be close in thought and where the clear distinctions are.

On a side note, I found these quotes on the blog Engaging Your World. If Pastor Tom still allowed comments on his blog, I would have commented on his flippant, broad-brushed categorization of liberals by using the term "kool-aid drinkers." On top of that, the dangerous logic that the commander-in-chief cannot be questioned during a time of war deserves comment as well. I very well may post on the subject next. You might want to read it for yourself.


cleanhead said...

It is a sad situation. Every candiadte is afriad to say what I think the voters would lovefor them to say, on either side. Hillary I voted in favor it was a huge mistake I regret it I learned from it. Obama get them out now! I htink the voters in this country want to hear that. The midterm elections seem to support that theory.

As for bush the most heartening thing is almost no one but him cheney, wolfy et al believe what he says about iraq anymore the saddest thing is they don't care.

Hollands Opus said...

I think both sides have bathed in the political blood of this issue, quite deliberately.

I think Pres. Bush has not only listened, but altered his strategy. He has not of course, decided to pull out, nor should he. Neither has he gone far enough in the eyes of his detractors. But that is really not his problem. He has listened. It seems your main complaint is that he has not taken the course you would prefer. And I do not blame him, as I think withdrawal would precipitate a nuclear holocaust accross the globe. ( within 20-30 years).

All voices are heard quite often, and for the Pres. detractors it is throught the megaphone of the popular media.

I appreciate the blog, Ian. Thank you.

Ian said...

Actually, HO, my complaint about the president is that he might as well said, "Congress can talk all they want I don't care what they say." What I really want from him here is a tiny hint that he might hear something different if he listened. He doesn't have to change his mind, but it would be nice if he at least waited until the other side has spoken and then give his reasons for disagreeing. What I'm hearing here is a complete refusal to enter into any dialogue, civil or otherwise.

Hollands Opus said...

I guess we will, once again, have to disagree. There is nothing that will be said in the 5 minute presentations that has not been said and re-said, to the extent that the terrorists now incorporate those very words in their videos and monologues, and in their hate schools. Indeed,it has become thier second language and they are quite fluent.

I know that you are passionately against this war. But I think that same passion is unfavorably skewing your analysis in subject. I could of course be wrong and just not hearing your complaint as you are offering it.Pres. Bush has heard everything imaginable and has been the subject of extreme uncivil cruelty with respect to dialogue and tremedous dishonor.

By the way, I would support him saying, "they can talk all they want. I no longer care to subject myself and my cabinet to their political rants. We disagree on the fundamentals of this war, and I am no more going to change than they are on those fundamentals." I think he has shown an opennes to various strategic intiatives.

At the same time, I want to appreciate your opinion about this war. I think your are 100% consistent and 100% sincere. I would prefer to agree with you on it. I just can't.

cleanhead said...

OK cheney, wolfowitless, and OP believe what bush says about iraq. I stand corrected.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq is indefensable. Bush' detractors are the reslut of one thing-bush- not the media that is the lamest right wing spiel there is.

Twistedevangelical said...

HO, I take some umbridge with the "political blood" comment as well as the hurled invectives and the presuppositions which generalize, broad brush and seem to take a pass at reality. What senator or congressman wants soldiers to die? On either side of the aisle, name one? You and Glenn Beck need to get a grip on reality.

I am REALLY getting tired of posts that paint all liberals as God-hating fools who wouldn't be found anywhere near a fox hole, or who want our service men and women to die.

Conservatives want to win the war, right? That's good, I guess, if we can actually win. Liberals want to save lives and money by bringing the troops home. So what's not patriotic or loathsome about that?
Is it the fact that some folks believe that Christ preached peace and not war and destruction?

Bathed in political blood....let's let that sit out there for awhile. Maybe some great dialogue for the members of Al Quida.

How the heck can you predict a haulocost in 20 or 30 years? Is that what Hal Lindsey is predicting? We know he's been on target.

Blame the media...how about blaming a poorly executed, unconstitutional war that does little to stabilize the region even if it's won. God help us...no REALLY, GOD HELP US!!!

Hollands Opus said...

I have not suggested that Democrats want our soldiers to die or are unpatriotic. One can be a patriot but fail in that effort due to cowardice and power politics. Democrats in congress are a blend of both.

My comment, “ I think both sides have bathed in the political blood of this issue, quite deliberately” is simply a metaphor for the use of the political machine to character assassinate and to exploit the death of out troops (even of not with malice aforethought) for advantage. It is emotion running ahead of intellect and both side of the aisle are doing it. Metaphors must be contextualized for effect.