Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Role Models
In addition to my list of blogs that I read regularly or semi-regularly, there are a few I know I ought to read more often but I don't--one belongs to Eric Alterman, author of What Liberal Media?, who blogs at MSNBC. He's written (with Mark Green) a book called The Book on Bush, which is, in Alterman's words, intended "to systematically go through all of the significant policies of the Bush Administration and explain what they are doing, both to and for, the country."

Alterman talked about his book with Liberal Oasis. He touched on something that I've been thinking about this morning, having done my civic duty by voting in the Wisconsin primary. "…I’m called a Bush-hater by the Wall Street Journal, but I don’t really have any feelings about Bush personally. I never met him [but] when I watched that movie Journeys with George, I found him quite charming, to tell you truth. I understood the charm of the guy. But I don’t care if I like him or not. I don’t care if I like Clinton or not. I don’t care if I like Cheney or not. I care, as a patriot and as an intellectual, what are the results of the policies for the country and the world."

I think Alterman is in the minority. I'm there too, and I am guessing that many of the readers of this blog might be there, also. Many Americans want, first and foremost, to think that their president is a regular guy, to feel as though he's a good person, to view him as a role model for children. I submit this makes far less difference than what he actually does politically with the office. If Bill Clinton diddled an intern, if Howard Dean has a look in his eyes that makes you think he wants to smack somebody, that doesn't matter to some of us. We're all about what the guy will actually do in the real world, how he'll make the world safer and our country more prosperous.

I am pretty sure that George W. Bush would be a fine person to have a beer with or to sit next to at a baseball game. But does that automatically make him a good president? To some people, maybe. Not to those of us who share Alterman's view that what a president does matters far more than what a president is. Having made a comprehensive examination of Bush's term so far, Alterman tells Liberal Oasis: "I am genuinely afraid for my country, for my daughter’s future, of the consequences of a second Bush term. I am genuinely afraid of it. And it’s energized me…. I think there’s a real healthy understanding among all sensible people right now that there is only one hope for the future of this country and that is to get rid of this man, no matter who replaces him. I would very happy to vote for Bob Dole or George Herbert Walker Bush. [W] is the most dangerous man ever to occupy the American presidency in the past 100 years."

And that's something else I thought about this morning at the polls.

A local pundit was on one of the local morning shows up here today, and he made the notable point that John Kerry has voted against nearly every weapons system that's come before Congress during his years in the Senate, not to mention his vote against the Gulf War in 1991. Yet we're supposed to believe a chest full of medals from Vietnam will somehow immunize him from the coming blizzard of criticism over all those votes? Jake Tapper, formerly of Salon and now of ABC, wrote yesterday in the New York Times that maybe we shouldn't believe it. After all, Clinton--the pot-smokin' draft dodger--beat Daddy Bush and Bob Dole, a pair of World War II vets with a bunch of Flying Crosses and Purple Hearts, as well as Medal of Honor winner Bob Kerrey in the '92 primaries. And Bush himself--National Guard flyboy of dubious resume--beat an ex-Vietnam POW in the primaries and another Vietnam vet in the general election.

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