|11 Aug 2003 @ 12:26, by Quidnovi|
At bottom, America is a dream, an idea. You can take away all our roads, our crops, our people, our cities, our armies - you can take all of that away, and the idea will still be there as pure and great as anything conceived by the human mind...
That idea, that dream, is in mortal peril. You can still have all our roads, our crops, our people, our cities, our armies - you can have all of that, but if you murder the idea that is America, you have murdered America itself in a way that ten thousand September 11ths could never do. The men and women within this current administration are murdering the idea that is America with their Patriot Acts, their destruction of civil liberties, their lies, their daily undermining of even the most basic tenets of decency and freedom and justice that we have tried to live up to for 227 years.
---William Rivers Pitt, We Stand Our Ground
Americans have always believed that we the people have a right to know the truth and that the truth will set us free. The very idea of self-government depends upon honest and open debate as the preferred method for pursuing the truth -- and a shared respect for the Rule of Reason as the best way to establish the truth.
The Bush Administration routinely shows disrespect for that whole basic process, and I think it's partly because they feel as if they already know the truth and aren't very curious to learn about any facts that might contradict it. They and the members of groups that belong to their ideological coalition are true believers in each other's agendas.
There are at least a couple of problems with this approach:
First, powerful and wealthy groups and individuals who work their way into the inner circle -- with political support or large campaign contributions -- are able to add their own narrow special interests to the list of favored goals without having them weighed against the public interest or subjected to the rule of reason. And the greater the conflict between what they want and what's good for the rest of us, the greater incentive they have to bypass the normal procedures and keep it secret.
That's what happened, for example, when Vice President Cheney invited all of those oil and gas industry executives to meet in secret sessions with him and his staff to put their wish lists into the administration's legislative package in early 2001.
That group wanted to get rid of the Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming, of course, and the Administration pulled out of it first thing. The list of people who helped write our nation's new environmental and energy policies is still secret, and the Vice President won't say whether or not his former company, Halliburton, was included. But of course, as practically everybody in the world knows, Halliburton was given a huge open-ended contract to take over and run the Iraqi oil fields-- without having to bid against any other companies.
Secondly, when leaders make up their minds on a policy without ever having to answer hard questions about whether or not it's good or bad for the American people as a whole, they can pretty quickly get into situations where it's really uncomfortable for them to defend what they've done with simple and truthful explanations. That's when they're tempted to fuzz up the facts and create false impressions. And when other facts start to come out that undermine the impression they're trying to maintain, they have a big incentive to try to keep the truth bottled up if -- they can -- or distort it.
For example, a couple of weeks ago, the White House ordered its own EPA to strip important scientific information about the dangers of global warming out of a public report. Instead, the White House substituted information that was partly paid for by the American Petroleum Institute. This week, analysts at the Treasury Department told a reporter that they're now being routinely ordered to change their best analysis of what the consequences of the Bush tax laws are likely to be for the average person.
Here is the pattern that I see: the President's mishandling of and selective use of the best evidence available on the threat posed by Iraq is pretty much the same as the way he intentionally distorted the best available evidence on climate change, and rejected the best available evidence on the threat posed to America's economy by his tax and budget proposals.
In each case, the President seems to have been pursuing policies chosen in advance of the facts -- policies designed to benefit friends and supporters -- and has used tactics that deprived the American people of any opportunity to effectively subject his arguments to the kind of informed scrutiny that is essential in our system of checks and balances.
Former Vice President Al Gore's Remarks
New York University, August 7, 2003