A Nation Of One
On Wednesday, Alan Greenspan shared the world stage for a brief moment amidst new allegations of Iraqi long range missiles, riots in Bolivia, and NATO’s future. The Chairman of the Federal Reserve warned about widening the U.S. budget deficit and and how the uncertainties of war would play out poorly for the injured American economy. What went unnoticed was an interesting comment by Republican Senator Jim Bunning, criticizing Alan Greenspan for speaking out against the Bush administration.
“Your words matter, Mr. Chairman. Maybe more than they should,” started the rookie Senator from Kentucky. “You make statements on fiscal policy, which you should not be doing.”
That’s right. Alan Greenspan, a man whose life is dedicated to analyzing economic policy, a man who fought tooth and nail against Republicans who labeled him an alarmist as he raised interest rates in hopes to cushion the fall of the bubble economy of the late 90’s (and probably saving us all from an even bleaker market at the start of the new millenium), should not be speaking about fiscal policy. Instead, Baseball Hall of Famers turned politicians like Mr. Bunning should be the only ones who speak about our money management.
Thankfully, the event doesn’t carry that much weight (The Chairman of the Federal Reserve rightfully has more influence than a relatively young senator, and even in some cases the ruling party), but it does carry a strong message. The humor in the incident is much more than your standard political gaffe. It is in a sense a self-satire. What was seen here was an exemplification of the attitude that Republicans have more or less expressed enjoyed since Sept. 11: the idea that their policy is so grounded in the right that those who disagree border on subhuman.
The first spark of this attitude appeared in President Bush’s speech to the nation after Sept. 11, in which he declared to other countries that “you are either with us or you are with the terrorists.” This black-and-white policy has more or less stuck for the past year and a half. The problem is the policy is overly presumptuous that our way is the ideal way to halt terrorism. Elimination probably was the right way to go for al-Qaida and the Taliban government that didn’t want us to get them, but is war the ideal way to go for Iraq, and is disinterest the ideal way for North Korea, and is the mediocre attempt at rebuilding government the ideal way for Afghanistan? The policy also placed every country into a NATO-like agreement without them signing anything. The nations of the world must come to the aid of a nation whose enemies were not targeting themselves. And yet we heard little response.
Later came the creation of the Office of Homeland Security. The organization would cost billions of previously unallocated dollars to create and run. The redundancy it shares with branches of the CIA and FBI are mind-boggling. The agency was created on the fantastic notion that it could fill every crack that terrorists could slip through. The necessity of the organization was never questioned by politicians. Those that thought of trimming funding for it were labeled unpatriotic or blind to the dangers of terror. Most Republican agenda items met a similar fate. There was a right and a wrong--take your stance.
Now today we are faced with the issue of a war in Iraq. While the polarity is not the same as before, it is still amazingly strong. There exists strong cases for going to war and for not going to war with Saddam Hussein. However, debate, while active across the world, does not exist in Congress. Actions and speech, such as the plans to fund Turkey (some would say ‘bribe’ Turkey, À la Bush Sr. with Egypt) for the defenses they would need in case of war, represent the belief that war is inevitable and just. The politically correct phrase for being against war is “President Bush has not made the case,” not “I don’t want to destabilize the region and make matters worse.” The politically correct term for an anti-war supporter is a “surrender monkey,” a term National Review borrowed from the Simpsons. It is an amazingly biting term; Gallup polls have consistently shown that 30 to 40 percent of Americans and majorities across both old and new Europe qualify as “surrender monkeys.” However, television coverage would let one presume that opposition comes only from outside the U.S. borders or from radical college students, protecting the idea that middle America, Republican standby, and land of values and morality, still sees things from the right point of view. Is it any wonder that most media outlets have harped on France, a nation vehemently lampooned for being timid, weak, and unable to deal with threats to its borders, as being the chief opposition to war when it is joined by Belgium, Germany, and Russia in its opposition? And other populations in the rest of the world?
What brought about such an attitude? What allowed it to continue? While terrorism may be a bloody shirt to wave, and Democratic leaders have remained tacit, and the American media have almost put Ari Fleischer out of a job, there has to be more to such a prolonged period. The only explanation I can conceive is that America’s conservatives have come to expect the solidarity and unanimity seen in America’s darkest hour, and there has been nothing to tell them they might find otherwise.
One can breathe a sigh of relief that the tax plan may be the beginning of the end. But this problematic attitude itself should not need to experience a long-winded downfall. It has unfairly added credibility to the idea that our policies are a crusade, an idea upon which Osama Bin Laden has been all to eager to harp. The mistreatment of opposition can only breed more and more isolation from allies and friends that were once willing to compromise. But most importantly, within this attitude is something outright un-American, the desire to restrict the right to question.