Fire up the engine, the train is leaving

Over the last week, I’ve been trying to sort out my thoughts on the Abu Ghraib abuse scandal. It clearly hurts our self-imposed image as “the good guys”. While I don’t feel obliged to discuss the abuse directly, since the evidence speaks for itself, it’s abhorrent to our national values and ideals. No “moral” society would allow this to happen. But I’m realistic enough to understand that no society will proceed in any significant endeavor without mistakes. The true nature of a society is its response to its mistakes. In this we’re failing miserably.

Specifically, our president is failing. He’s reacting to this situation as if we should be content that the abuse was uncovered and the guilty will be prosecuted. That is part of the solution, but pretending like this isn’t a big issue is wrong.

If President Bush or others in his administration permitted the abuse, they are responsible and vile. If no one in President Bush’s administration knew of the abuse, they are responsible and incompetent. Neither truth is comforting. While President Bush will continue to push the war on terror forward, we have no evidence to believe that he can change his style of governing.

Despite this scandal, we should not capitulate to terrorists. Some will say we are no better than the terrorists we claim to fight. They are wrong. Terrorists will continue to use any reason available, no matter how twisted, to justify their agenda. However, until we prove that we are willing to admit and correct our mistakes, we make it more difficult for our allies to support us unconditionally. This is a pivotal moment in our fight for the world’s freedom. We must act honorably.

Based on this need, I do not believe that this administration is the right one to lead us into the future. I don’t base my opinion on the Republican vs. Democrat difference because it is beyond party differences. This is a leadership issue. President Bush and officials in his administration are demonstrating their fundamental lack of leadership skills in the world of 2004. Sometimes forceful, unilateral action is appropriate. When it’s not, that leaves diplomacy. This administration has shown that it lacks diplomacy, which is why the Republican Party must rid itself of the Bush-Cheney re-election ticket.

I’m intelligent enough to know that such a reversal will never happen. After the 13 nanoseconds it took me to come to that conclusion, I shifted to what might be a workable solution. As I’ve written before, the best possibility for America is a Kerry-McCain ticket for the presidency.

My opinion hasn’t changed, I still think this is a brilliant solution. Yet, I know my ideas do not usually gel with everyone else. Much to my surprise, though, Andrew Sullivan reiterated this same idea in an article for The National Review. I’m not sure I agree with the loss of confidence in the Kerry candidacy that Mr. Sullivan claims, but he’s following the campaign closer than I am, so I’m willing to give him some slack on this for now. Rather than try to write my own version of why this is a great idea, I’ll offer a few highlights from the article. He clarifies everything I’ve been thinking, but haven’t put into words. Rather than waste time re-writing what’s already written, I’ll let the idea stand in place of my originality.

Mr. Sullivan’s main argument:

Here’s why. There is no one better suited in the country to tackle a difficult war where the United States is credibly accused of abusing prisoners than John McCain. He was, after all, a victim of the worst kind of prisoner torture imaginable in the Hanoi Hilton. His military credentials are impeccable but so are his moral scruples and backbone; that’s a rare combination. As a vice-presidential candidate, he would allow Kerry to criticize the conduct of the war and occupation, but also to pursue them credibly. He would give Kerry credibility on national defense, removing the taint of an “antiwar” candidacy headed by a man who helped pioneer the antiwar forces during Vietnam. He would ensure that a Kerry victory would not be interpreted by America’s allies or enemies as a decision to cut and run from Iraq.

In office, McCain could be given real authority as a war-manager, providing a counterweight to Kerry’s penchant for U.N.-style non-solutions. There’s a precedent for such a powerful vice-president who could not credibly be believed to have designs on the Oval Office himself: Dick Cheney. Why no credible ambitions for the presidency himself? If McCain agreed to run with Kerry, he would also have to agree to support Kerry for possible reelection. There’s no way that McCain could credibly run for president in eight years’ time–as a Democrat or as a Republican. So he could become for Kerry what Cheney has been for Bush: a confidant, a manager, a strategic mind, a guide through the thicket of war-management. But he could also be more for Kerry: He could be a unifying force in the country in the dark days ahead.

Whatever your opinion, read the article in its entirety. Mr. Sullivan offers an interesting perspective on the “national government” idea, commonly found in times of crisis in parliamentary democracies. It’s an important, unique approach to our election at this critical moment and worth your consideration.

2 thoughts on “Fire up the engine, the train is leaving”

  1. I must respond to the anonymous comment.
    As an elementary school teacher, I deal with conflict on a daily basis. Children mistreat one another, sometimes purposefully, sometimes accidentally, sometimes in a retaliatory nature. “An eye for an eye” and “fight fire with fire” is not an acceptable response in my classroom.
    Today, I watched one child in my class smack the lid of another child’s hat repeatedly. I did not resolve the conflict because I believe children need to learn to handle these kinds of situations without immediate adult intervention. It’s my job, I believe, to intervene when a child’s response is inappropriate or unacceptable. It’s also my job to know exactly what is going on among the children in the classroom at all times so, when I do need to intervene, I can do so swiftly, with all the information I need to handle the situation with equal amounts of fairness and justice.
    Would it ever be acceptable for me, the teacher, to say, “Well, Child A WAS smacking Child B’s hat over and over. He got smacked because he deserved it?” Would it be acceptable for me to turn my head and pretend I didn’t see the hat-smacking occur because the laws of human nature would resolve this conflict? I think not. As the responsible adult, I have an obligation to my students to set an example that reflects my own moral and ethical values as well as one that I believe promotes civility and basic human dignity.
    The child whose hat was repeatedly smacked got up and moved to another spot on the carpet. End of conflict. The hat-smacker didn’t go looking for another victim. He’s not a bully. He was entertaining himself. The fact that his classmate no longer wanted to sit next to him was lesson enough to curb the behavior. This is how the justice system works among four-year olds. The system of checks and balances applies, on a much more fundamental scale, but it exists nonetheless.
    This is where I have to agree with Tony, that Bush has fallen short as our leader. I find it unacceptable that he claims he did not know the abuse was happening. If a child in my class wails on another and I do nothing about it because I (supposedly) didn’t see it, does that excuse me from being held responsible when the child is bleeding from the nose? I think not. Is it enough for me to say, “Well, when Billy hit back, I sent both children to the office to see the principal. They will be duly punished?” ABSOLUTELY not. I think the same goes for Mr. Bush.
    Senseless acts of violence, whatever the reason, do not justify or warrant further acts of violence. Every such act erodes and disintegrates civility bit by bit. I can’t live with that. Can you?
    And so, five days a week, within the four walls of my classroom, among thirty-six people no more than thirty-six inches tall, I’m doing something about it.

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