Reason vrs Faith

One of the most disturbing meta issues about the upcoming election is the role of faith in President Bush’s administration. I’ve been reading for a while how policy was left to dogmatic truths and maxims instead of pragmatic reality. There are definite pragmatic advantages to this type of decision making. The first is that gives a very consistent record. The second is that it resonates with ideologues and the evangelical. The weakness is in the results. An inability to adapt to new situations and a general inability to admit mistakes and fault. So far all of this fits the administration to a T. I have spent the last couple months looking for signs and hints from the president that it isn’t true, that it is just a categorization made by his opponents. After the third debate, there was no hope left. The only sign in the campaign was a point where Bush said that you can’t truly defeat terrorism. I was overjoyed at the comment, but instead of sticking to his guns and explaining the reality of the statement, it was quickly dismissed and never saw the light of day again. The only hope left is, that as a friend claims, Bush is terrified of saying anything like that because it will get used against him.

Both of the possibilities are frightening. Either Bush is afraid to state the reality of the situation to the American people, or he can’t get passed blind faith to deal with the reality of the situation. Neither allows him to act in the best interest of the country and neither possibility allows me to trust him. The president’s entire campaign message of optimism and steadfastness just becomes an inability to see the truth and an inability to be flexible or agile. These are fatal flaws in someone running America. With the recent change of plans of the company with Longhorn, I was given a stark contrast between Microsoft’s leadership and Bush’s leadership. Microsoft was open and honest about the need to change course to meet our objectives, and after getting over the let down, I see how the new plan is a better plan in the long term.

Ron Suskind recently wrote an article about the nature of faith in the administration, drawing it as “a battle between modernists and fundamentalists, pragmatists and true believers, reason and religion.”

That very issue is what Jim Wallis wishes he could sit and talk about with George W. Bush. That’s impossible now, he says. He is no longer invited to the White House.

”Faith can cut in so many ways,” he said. ”If you’re penitent and not triumphal, it can move us to repentance and accountability and help us reach for something higher than ourselves. That can be a powerful thing, a thing that moves us beyond politics as usual, like Martin Luther King did. But when it’s designed to certify our righteousness — that can be a dangerous thing. Then it pushes self-criticism aside. There’s no reflection.

”Where people often get lost is on this very point,” he said after a moment of thought. ”Real faith, you see, leads us to deeper reflection and not — not ever — to the thing we as humans so very much want.”

And what is that?

”Easy certainty.”

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Return of the Ten

Slate has a nice piece about the complexity of the Government mixing with the Ten Commandments as the Supreme Court decides to take up the issue again.

But in the art museum example the context of the display is everything. The depiction is “art,” and we know it reflects the sensibilities of the artist, not the government. We understand that the public museum is a collection of views that none of us is forced to view. But what about public schools? The Supreme Court in Stone v. Graham (1980) held that a display of the Ten Commandments in a classroom violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Displays of the Ten Commandments like those presented by the Eagles are often described in lower-court opinions (including the Texas case now before the Supreme Court) as “monuments.” These monuments are often placed in parks or public buildings. In such instances, our vocabulary and sense of landscape may change our interpretation of the display. The very word choice is a clue. Perhaps the term “monument” is chosen only loosely, as a convenient shorthand to help us conjure the image of the granite block on which the Decalogue is placed. But the word “monument” has multiple connotations, including “memorial,” “record,” “testament,” “reminder,” or “tribute.” A monument placed on public property is usually not thought of as a work of art to which the government is indifferent, but rather, as a display in some sense approved or endorsed by the government. We erect “monuments” to leaders, soldiers, heroes, and great events.

Welcome to undivided government

The Boston Globe has a three part series on how the GOP is governing the country.

Back-room dealing a Capitol trend
Energy bill a special-interests triumph
Medicare bill a study in D.C. spoils system

Election Series: North Korea

Bush’s approach to North Korea has caused some regression from the previous state. Are the multilateral talks now going on worth the cost we have paid?

Election Series: Iran

Iran appears hell bent on getting nuclear weapon capabilities and have an expressed desire to attack Israel with them. They are also aligned to Hezbollah, a believed to be terrorist group. It’s frustrating that the president doesn’t seem to have a strategy with Iran other then to let the IAEA do their work. It seems like Bush can only operate in one of two modes, completely hands off or getting ready to invade. The other possibility is that Bush can’t actually handle more then one thing at once, and Iraq is sucking all of their attention.

Things to continue investigating: There has got to be more data on the whitehouse’s Iran policy out there.

Election Series: Afghanistan

War:

While there was some concern that we were going into Afghanistan without proof of the ties between Al Queda and 9/11, it appears that the right thing happened. What’s not good is that Osama managed to escape or elude capture.

Post War:

Afghanistan has taken a number of baby steps to being better, an election that includes women’s suffrage is a good step, but there are a lot of concerns. The country still has heavily controlled by war lords and the Taleban continues to fight for control of the country. Opium production has become a serious problem again. Women have taken a number of minor steps but there is still a lot of social issues like women needing their husband’s permission to vote. We do not appear to be effective in making sure that development money promised for the country has been delivered.

The end result is that we could do better, but we are not doing horrible. The situation seems stable.

Bush/Kerry Debates Part 1: Iraq

Slate’s William Saletan examines the pivotal questions about Iraq left from the debate.

How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

So, [Bush] offers himself—and you—a way out. Ignore the bad news, he says. Ignore the evidence that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs had deteriorated. Ignore the evidence that Saddam had no operational relationship with al-Qaida. Ignore the rising casualties. Ignore the hollowness and disintegration of the American-led “coalition.” If these reports are true, as Kerry suggests, then it was all a mistake. How can we ask our troops to die for a mistake? We can’t. Therefore, these reports must be rejected. They must be judged not by evidence, but by their offensiveness to the assumptions we embraced when we went to war.

The logical upshot of these beliefs—and the evidence—is that Americans are dying in Iraq for a mistake.

Why won’t Kerry say so? For the same reason Bush accuses him of saying so: Because we don’t want to believe it. On this ultimate question, Kerry clings to Bush’s wishful thinking.

But the greater shame belongs to the candidate who launched this war, refuses to admit his errors, and now holds the moral pride of his countrymen hostage, blackmailing them into shunning the truth. Tonight he scoffed, “If I were to ever say, ‘This is the wrong war at the wrong time at the wrong place,’ the troops would wonder, ‘How can I follow this guy?’ “

Exactly, Mr. President. If you were ever to give them the correct assessment, they would ask the correct question.

What is missing from this critique is the realization that now that the claimed mistake has been made, there are some unacceptable repercussions to just pulling out. Both Bush and Kerry acknowledge this point. The real question was who has a more realistic plan for what comes next. My concern is that it may be too late for the moves that Kerry wants to make to change the situation.