The Nossiter Net
The net that shall enmesh them all
Edited, Written, and Published by Josh Nossiter
The Morning Mendacity
Wednesday, February 2nd, 2005
The Nossiter Net is cast  to snare some of  the riper rascalities of the day.  Comments?  editor@nossiter.net
Pundits have taken to comparing the Bush administration plan to overhaul the Social Security System with the Clinton administration’s botched attempt to reform health insurance.  Robin Toner gives The New York Times’ blessing to this view in Tuesday’s edition, with a story whimsically headlined Bush on Social Security and Clinton on Health Care: Oh, Those Devilish Details.* The gist:  similarly well-intentioned major reforms sink under the weight of partisan opposition and poor planning.

Of course, the Clintons’ health plan was designed to reform a scandalous health insurance industry and address the acute lack of health care suffered by tens of millions of citizens.  And never mind that the plan was ridiculed, demonized, and sent to an untimely demise by the insurance industry itself, acting in concert with its Republican friends.  The Bush Social Security plan, on the other hand doesn’t address any need at all, other than that of Wall Street for the massive brokerage fees sure to accrue if the scheme is ever enacted. But devilish details like these are of little consequence to the modern pundit.  He, and she, is far more interested in the broad sweep of history, the great themes and patterns that recur from administration to administration.

In that spirit of sweeping historical free-association, we can anticipate other insightful comparisons likely to be made about the achievements of the Bush administration:

Department of Homeland Security’s color-coded warning system and Paul Revere’s ride.  Before there were pundits, we had poets;  hence Longfellow’s poem, which so memorably begins “Listen my children and you shall hear/Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.”  Life was simpler in 1775, and in the absence of colored lights the American insurgents made do with plain lanterns, “One if by land, and two if by sea”, hung from the old North Church belfry.  Anyone stirred by Longfellow is likely to have been equally moved by the square-jawed Mr. Ridge on television, solemnly proclaiming the color-coded danger level
du jour.  Were Mr. Bush of a more literary bent, familiarity with Longfellow’s opus would surely have suggested placing Mr. Ridge’s colored lights atop the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

George Washington crossing the Delaware, and George Bush landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln.  At a dark moment in the war of independence, with his rag-tag army’s back to the wall, General Washington launched a pre-dawn surprise attack across the Delaware River on the day after Christmas, 1776.  The sleeping Hessian mercenaries were routed, and Washington’s daring victory in the Battle of Trenton turned the tide of war.  The crossing is immortalized by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze’s grand painting, hanging in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.  Mr. Bush’s bravery in almost performing a carrier landing aboard the Lincoln, and the subsequent heroic images of the flight-suited Mr. Bush beneath his “Mission Accomplished” banner, might very well have turned the tide of war in Iraq.  Had Mr. Bush enjoyed General Washington’s extraordinary luck in being at the head of ill-equipped, underfed, untrained, near-frozen troops, hopelessly out-numbered by the world’s then-most powerful army, who can say what the President might have accomplished on that fateful day?

Franklin Roosevelt, December 8th, 1941, and George W. Bush, September 12th, 2001.  The day after the Japanese navy attacked the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Franklin D. Roosevelt went before a joint session of Congress and asked for a declaration of war against Japan.  His speech began “Yesterday, December 7, 1941 - a date which will live in infamy - the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan.”

Roosevelt’s stirring call to arms came immediately to mind sixty years later, when George W. Bush, in a photo opportunity with his national security team on the morning after the attacks of 9/11/2001, memorably twanged “I have just completed a meeting with my national security team, and we have received the latest intelligence updates.”**  Only a Longfellow could do justice to words like those, which surely, as the poet wrote of the sound of Revere’s horse’s hoofbeats, “In the hour of darkness and peril and need/The people will waken and listen to hear.”

*http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/01/national/01assess.html
**http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2001/09/20010912-4.html

©Joshua C. Nossiter, 2005
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