Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wounded, Duck

I am a curious bystander of the US political process. Driving to work around the Beltway in DC, I get the same news from NPR to which all the politicos listen; it is hard to avoid their chatter, even if I turn off the radio. From week to week, the issues are different, but the overall process is the same: executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the government hammering out new laws & proposals while trying to make sense of current affairs and subsequent issues that will inevitably become the laws & proposals of the future. Keeping score of these accounts is tiring and no doubt a more-than-full-time job; I think those guys (& gals) down in the Capitol Building are doing a fine job of mucking around in the issues.

Mucking is the operative word. I have tried to make sense of current issues that consume the media outlets and political bluster - Iraq, oil, and immigration. Of course, there is an off-mention of foreign affairs and other seemingly important issues like the Doha Round (the next WTO agreement on multi-lateral trade), China & India's emergence, trade in general, and other various rabble-rousers (Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Somalia, Israel/Palestine). The problem is that secretive agendas seemingly disjointed from global realities set the agenda for the efforts. And, as most large organizations - political or business-oriented - the agenda gets driven from the top. That top is headed by a president who seemingly has little perspective beyond the walls of his Oval Office, and he has a staff of yes-men who do not appear able to move beyond the guidelines set down by him and his close advisors.

Ah, yes - the close advisors and the friends. Dick Cheney. Karl Rove. Alberto Gonzales. There are others lurking in the background, but these three steal the spotlight. They are painted as evil, conniving, and clueless respectively - and do not seem willing to challenge these notions through their public statements. Even with a change of government from the last big US election in 2006 - which has agreed the open combativeness of bi-partisan politics - these characters have further established their personas and etched their names permanently in the infamies of history.

I say infamies because I am not sure if history will be too kind to these characters. Damage has been done in many directions - US international reputation, Iraqi sovereignty, public debt spending, environmental damage, and worst of all for a business manager - global competitiveness in terms of cost structure and attractiveness to talented labor. All of these things were "missed" in political assessments, or rather, not fully appreciated when viewing situations from a broader perspective. Now, the damage has been done and has left future generations to clean up and/or address in likely uncomfortable situations with US global neighbors.

My thoughts were on this subject briefly when listening to some testimony from Monica Goodling, a former Chief of Staff for Alberto Gonzales who was forced to comment to the Senate about dealings by the Attorney General to establish a new judicial climate post-2004 elections. It seemed that the line was crossed regarding abuse of power (certainly not an isolated instance - consider wiretapping, unsanctioned invasions, torture, unlawful imprisonment, to name a few other grievances), and the House politicians were looking for accountability. Alberto Gonzales, in his own testimony, suggested that his recollection was not so great; it seemed in Monica's testimony that his recollection was carefully cultivated in the questions that he posed to his staff.

In any case, laying bare more issues surrounding this whole political process leave me thinking: disregard for the wider impact of decisions in leadership - not just in the US political process but in any sort of social institution - leaves those in weak positions. Wounded, Bush appears to duck more than stand up for the transgressions; I wish him well as he will likely need to take some cues from Alberto Gonzales and further cultivate his recollection of these crazy times for posterity.
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