From No Balls to Nobels

Al Gore’s post-political communications triumphs stand in stark contrast to his political communications body of work. I couldn’t stand to listen to Gore as a candidate. He was condescending, simplistic, arrogant, uninspiring, insincere, gutless, utterly predictable and formulaic. But almost since the moment the election ended, he became more compelling as the shackles of politics were removed.

In the political world, gotcha reporters cause candidates to stick with risk-averse milquetoast phrasing. Interest groups make candidates into inflexible and oh-so-predictable policy slaves. TV news editors make candidates into simplistic sound bite machines. Cookie cutter political consultants make candidates into grating repetitive robots.

The political system makes an awful lot of thoughtful, decent people of all political stripes look like devious dolts. The fact that people like Gore, Dole, Carter and others are only able to display their true heart, mind, guts and soul after they leave politics raises serious questions about our political system.

– Loveland

Speak The Word — Courage or Hypocrisy?

The power of a word. Genocide.

A US House committee calls the Ottoman Empire’s last gasp in killing perhaps 1.5 million Armenians in the early 20th Century “genocide,” and now our troops in Iraq may be put at greater risk because of Turkey’s angry reaction.

Commenting on events halfway around the world, while ignoring your own problems at home, used to be called “Afghanistanism.”  The US House, which hasn’t been able to find the cojones to challenge, or even look squarely at, the Bush administration’s atrocities, decides it’s time to right a 90-year-old wrong an ocean and a sea away. Brilliant.

Turkey, an admirable ally in the current endless war, jails journalists who call the killings genocide. As I.F. Stone said about the South Vietnamese government we were propping up in our last endless war, “our allies are a pretty stinking bunch.”

But we are global hypocrites ourselves when we throw stones from our glass house. This country systematically killed millions of black slaves and Native Americans (the last US Army massacre of Indians, at Wounded Knee, took place only 25 years before the slaughter of Armenians started), and we are this minute killing Iraqi civilians in this wrong war in the wrong place.

Often, speaking powerful words takes courage. That’s not something Congress displays very often. Nor in this case.

— Bruce Benidt