Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Politicizing threats

The larger a threat is, the more important it is for us to face and fight it together. In the worst of times, a good leader, like Franklin D. Roosevelt rallies his country and inspires citizens to give the very best of themselves. But a poor leader uses a crisis to enlarge his powers at the expense of others and by doing so he makes his country more vulnerable to threats.

George W. Bush was given an opportunity by the terrible events of September 11 2001 to build on the unity and the good will of the world. But he chose to squander that good will by unilaterally invading Iraq, a country which was not a direct threat to the United States and had not been involved in the events of September 11. This is not an isolated mistake but it is the way his administration operates. They use threats such as "terrorism" to drive a wedge between potential critics and supporters, Then they act unilaterally, giving themselves special powers and shrugging off national and international cooperation. Ultimately this has weakened America's power.

But it's not just the war on terror that's been used to win by dividing people. Frank Luntz is a Republican public relations consultant who came up with the idea of discrediting global warming in order to keep this issue from benefiting the Democrats in the 2000, 2002, and 2004 elections. In an infamous memo he distributed to Republicans in 2002, Luntz, who now says he accepts the science behind global warming, wrote the following:

"The scientific debate is closing (against us) but not yet closed. There is still a window of opportunity to challenge the science... Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore you need to make the lack of scientific certainty the primary issue in the debate."

It's apparent from this memo that Luntz was aware that the science behind global warming was sound, but he chose to make it a partisan issue to help win elections for the Republican party.

We can see how influential Frank Luntz has been. The Bush administration has sucessfully stalled any action on global warming and significant numbers of Americans are in the dark as to the meaning and importance of climate change. All to serve the delusion of a permanent Republican majority.

In America, winning is everything. American politics is all about winner-takes-all, unlike the possibilities in a true parliamentary system. American TV reflects this zero sum game with it's "survivor" and "Idol" and it's game shows.

Who wins when terrorism gets a new lease on life in Iraq? Who wins when inaction on global warming puts future generations at risk? When you're so involved in winning you lose sight of the long term goals. Kill Iraqi's and the next generation become terrorists. Delay acting decisively on global warming and you destroy the chances for coming generations.

The Republican strategy of winning at all costs will lose conservatives votes and influence over the long term. As hurricanes become more frequent and destructive and flooding and drought become more common Republicans will be seen as the party that stood in the way of doing something to prevent it.

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