Monday, February 06, 2006

State of Hypocrisy: My first professional rant.

Last Tuesday’s State of the Union address revealed President Bush’s idea’s for the course of the nation in this pivotal election year. His overall agenda had a few surprises- namely the intense focus on developing renewable energy and the passing mention of abortion and marriage. However, the main issue revealed, both by the address and the audience, was the deep and poisonous partisanship in modern American politics.

I have to admit that the behavior of the Democratic faction was less than admirable. For the vast majority of the speech, they withheld applause with remarkable consistency. This could normally be forgiven as an exceptional difference of opinion, but the sarcastic applause at the failure of Bush’s Social Security plan was in poor taste, even rude. These reactions only present the Democrats as the instigators of the partisanship in government.

However, Bush’s speech did little to earn the bipartisan attitude he was seeking. Throughout the speech, he referenced the World War II era, comparing our current Gulf War II to World War II, setting up parallels between his administration and that of Roosevelt, and between the invasion of Iraq and the liberation of Nazi concentration camps. He spent more time implying that those who speak against the war in Iraq are defeatist isolationists than presenting a concrete foreign policy for the coming year, saying that there is “no peace in retreat, no honor in retreat”, and that “hindsight is not wisdom, and second-guessing is not strategy”. Apparently his foreign policy consists of framing his opponents as being opposed to the war in Iraq as well as humanitarian programs abroad, including action against malaria, HIV/AIDS, human trafficking, and genocide. By connecting the desire to end the war in Iraq with the fictional desire to completely withdraw from the world, he effectively demonized his opposition, even as he called for bipartisan action.

It is certain that the leverage afforded by Republican control of Congress allowed Bush to craft his policy with little interference from the Democratic Party. Now, with his approval ratings slipping as low as 39%, he is attempting to blame the partisan split in Washington on his opposition while ignoring the simple fact that respect is earned, not magically manifested out of thin air. In the same breath, he called for cooperation between the parties and attacked his opposition. If he expects to be able to receive the aid of Democrats in Congress as he poisons the well by portraying his critics as cowardly isolationists, he is greatly mistaken.

If there is to be partisan reconciliation in this anxious era, both the Republicans and Democrats must come with open minds and the political will to cooperate and thus improve the country. The Democrats cannot expect to gain support if they behave immaturely, and the Republicans cannot expect to gain Democratic cooperation if they do not make a good-faith effort to appreciate their contribution to the government of our nation. Cooperation, by definition, cannot come purely on the terms of one party. The partisan bickering present in our government impedes the process of governing. We, as taxpayers, pay our leaders to govern, not to fight among themselves, and we have the right to expect maturity from our government.