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Thursday, November 04, 2004

President sees national sacrifice: Deconstructing Phillips Brooks

Stool Summary

The value of a cup is not the cup, but the space inside the cup. Sometimes a quote is just a quote. Other times, the quote says far more--the message is not just the quote, but more telling is what is left out when the quote is used.

Perhaps without knowing, the President partially quoted Phillips Brooks. Yet a close reading of Brooks' full quote raises questions about the President plans for the country, and who will ultimately be compelled to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Analyzing Brooks' quote suggests the national trend is not simply one of demanding sacrifice for flawed policies, but a sign of continued attacks on intellectualism

Yet, such an analysis should be seen in the broader national-political context. The political parties now jockey in the Senate over the last 4 seats needed to end filibusters. But for the filibuster, there is little stopping a rollback of 1960s civil rights acts.

The unfolding drama foreshadows efforts to inter alia: [a] undermine the constitution; [b] reverse civil rights gains; [c] undermine the necessary elements required to sustain national prosperity; and [d] mobilize the nation for a broader, more costly struggle than has been admitted.

Accordingly, the dollar suffers.


On November 3rd, 2004, following Senator Kerry's concession speech, the President cited a quote by Phillips Brooks (1835-93), American Episcopal bishop.

The President said:
There's an old saying, "Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks." Ref Ref
While we superficially deconstruct Brooks' quote, keep in mind another Brooks quote:
"Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones."Ref

1. Comparing the original quote to the subsequent use

The President said, ["President's version"], "Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks."

Brooks' said, ["complete Brooks-quote"]: "Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger men! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks." -- Phillips Brooks (1835-93), American Episcopal bishop Ref

Notice in bold what was not in the President's version of the quote -- The President is giving us fair warning that there will be great sacrifices in the years ahead.

2. Noticing the context the President used the quote

Let's consider how the quote was used. Consider the subsequent words in the speech ["longer President quote"]:
There's an old saying, "Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks." In four historic years, America has been given great tasks, and faced them with strength and courage. Our people have restored the vigor of this economy, and shown resolve and patience in a new kind of war. Our military has brought justice to the enemy, and honor to America. (Applause.) Our nation has defended itself, and served the freedom of all mankind. I'm proud to lead such an amazing country, and I'm proud to lead it forward. (Applause.) Because we have done the hard work, we are entering a season of hope. We'll continue our economic progress. Ref
Notice that the complete Brooks-quote focuses exclusively on the future; while the President's version of the quote in context of the entire speech is using the past to prepare for the future.

Again, recall that complete Brooks' quote originally focuses on future application; while the President's use of the quote was to build upon the historical sacrifice.

The distinction is noteworthy. The President is not asking that the country simply focus it's energies; rather, the President asking that, because the military is sacrificing, then so should the rest of America.

Zeroing in on the President's speech, we find textual support for this interpretation:
With good allies at our side, we will fight this war on terror with every resource of our national power so our children can live in freedom and in peace. Reaching these goals will require the broad support of Americans. Ref
Note that the President focuses not just the military, but every resource. The 20th Century Warfare experience, unlike the 19th Century, was characterized by being of being fairly removed, on foreign shores, and the civilian population left largely unaffected.

Civilians and military operations

Let's consider the nature of military in modern society. The general notion is that if the range of hostilities can be relatively isolated, that the general population will be spared the scourge of war.

The Profession of arms in the 21st Century gains distinction because it leverages high technology against forces to reduce casualties and limit the number of troops to the risks of direct combat.

The lesson of history was that for a nation to credibly wage a successful war, the outcome must be measured in terms of what is not done: How many civilians are spared, whether the nation's military can mobilize without affecting the civilian population.

Taking a broad-brush approach to the relationship between military campaigns and civilians, we might be led to believe that combat has been a very dangerous thing for civilians. Consider the multi-millions of deaths in the European continent during World War II.

Except the national mobilization of civilians during WWII, the US civilian population has been relatively unaffected by global conflict during the 20th Century. By way of contrast, the President's call for sacrifice seem more similar to what occurred during the Civil War or the Russian experience during WWII, not the American experience during Panama, Haiti, Yugoslavia, Korea, or Vietnam.

The contrast between military technology and combat are noteworthy. The vast sums of money were invested in military technology not simply to expedite war and reduce casualties, but to ensure that the distant but also the civilians were safe.

The President abandons this construct, at best reversing it. Because the military is not up to the job, the civilians must now be brought in, exposed to battle, despite the distance. The war of choice has now become a necessary sacrifice.

Contrasting Bush and Brooks

Brooks uses the present reality as a foundation for future action and resolve for the individual; while the President spring boards from the myth of history of one group to justify greater sacrifice across the population.

The useful moral guides for the individual have been raised as the icon for the broader population in the interests of the greater good.

Yet, the real "greater good," is not the Constitution or the interests of individual, but to perpetuate both a myth and legacy for the sole benefit of a single leader and political party.

Power is now feeding upon itself as an end unto itself.

The military paradigm has been reframed. We might question the assumptions upon which these weapon system were built: Costly, high tech weapons were developed and deployed to contain conflict. Yet, this conflict, because it now requires sacrifice of civilians, is not contained, and now affects the very population asked to pay the bill for the illusory benefits.

The advertised benefits of "high technology" have not been realized. At best the costs for the weapons now rest upon those now asked to make personal sacrifices; at worst, the conflicts' consequences now bleed onto the ill-prepared civilian population strapped with the financial burden.

The burden is no longer distant. The President relies on Brooks to motivate individuals to make sacrifices they were led to believe would never be required. Unlike the latter conflicts in the 20th Century, Bush asks the civilian population to prepare for active involvement.

3. Considering the form of the personal sacrifice

Bush can only rely on the mythic past because the present reality, unlike Brooks' construction, has no foundation upon which to build credible action.

Repeating a myth does not make it so; nor can a myth truly inspire, unless ever larger myths are both created and believed along the way.

Reviewing the President's quote again, there is cause for alarm. The quote does not simply ask that we support the troops, but that the population be prepared to make personal sacrifice.

We can only speculate what form this "sacrifice" will come, inter alia: A reduction in civil liberties; greater expectation that the civilian population be asked to endure greater intrusions into their private lives; greater local funding for federally generated mandates; or greater "reliance" on state-level resources to "over" fiduciaries like attorneys and accountants.

Consider an illustration. Consider your reaction if you were given a gift of a cup. The cup is free. You only have to pay for the space inside. Consider it's utility, and what you are actually being given. Do you gladly keep the gift? It's not a gift, but a burden.

Bold visions need to be supported by credible resources. But when the Federal budget proves wanting, the answer is not to shift that burden to those who are less able to cover that requirement; rather the answer is to eliminate the requirement when the "full cost/marginal benefit" is born by those it is designed to "help".

Yet this President asks the opposite. He does not take responsibility, but shifts that burden to others. His "bold vision" doesn't require great leadership; rather the President is saying, "We have a budget deficit and limited resources to sustain combat operations in Iraq, and you, the people, not me, are going to be stuck with the responsibility to get out of this mess."
The myth is the President's leadership and legacy;

the reality is the burden and sacrifice expected of others.

Yet, this is contrary to the notion of "sovereign responsibility."Ref For the duty of leaders and soldiers is to protect the constitution, nation and citizens; not to use the military's sacrifice as the direct foundation to argue for greater private, non-combatant sacrifice.

Brooks focuses on strength from within; Bush focuses on the sacrifice of military as the pretext to compel future non-military sacrifices. We do not have a credible military leader when the "benefits of technology" [designed to limit civilian exposure of combat] is then turned on its head, while the military's service is used to justify greater civilian involvement in that failed military adventure.

Brooks' quote clearly implies the necessity of strength for the future, yet the President suggest the recent American military be the model to inspire the nation to sacrifice. Don't be fooled.

Citizen-Sovereign relationship turned upside down

The duty of the the sovereign and all officers who freely take their oath is: To preserve, protect, and defend the constitution.

A "failure of leadership exists" when the protected citizens are compelled to protect the sovereign from its own failures. The citizenry, infused with myth, will act as if they serve and protect the sovereign and the state. Ref At that juncture, constitutional sovereignty and legitimacy no longer exist.

The only architecture correctly defining the relationship between citizen and sovereign is based on myths characterized by threats, abuse, power, and crusades Ref; not the rule of law as clearly promulgated in the Constitution or Magna Carta.

This President makes an illusory overture for reconciliation for the good of all, all-the-while positioning his party to achieve the opposite: Shift the burden and avoid accountability in the interests of only the Republican party, and ultimately his own legacy.
Mythmaking: Analyzing another illustrative quote

Before ending with a discussion of politics in America, we digress.

This is one example of how the President twists quotes and themes to suit his objectives, and not necessarily prove to be a source of reliable research.

The purpose of this section is not to suggest, "Because the President has a hard time with quotes, he should be voted out of office" as it is too late.

Rather, the purpose is to show that the above comparison between Bush's quote and Brooks' original quote is not a unique comparison when evaluating the President's speeches. This is to say: The focus on Brooks' quote is appropriate given the other situations where the President has twisted words to suit his objectives.

Another quote that was selectively twisted

Let us consider the likely Republican Party's concerns with this superficial analysis. Do they have a valid point when they argue, "Oh this is just a minor problem"?

For an answer, consider the Brooks quote on character and details.
"Character may be manifested in the great moments, but it is made in the small ones." Ref
Brooks implies that the small moment, the impression is just as important as the over message. The details say much about character.

When those details are not consistent, we might raise reasonable questions about character. But the leader knows it is only the role of the leader to appear religious, not actually be so. In this age with unchecked power, we can expect at best entertainment not accountability. Ref [Consider other quotes, Ref.]

The theme of culture

Senator Kerry said about a New York Performance, "Every performer tonight, in their own way, either verbally or through their music, through their lyrics, have conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country." Ref Ref

Dovetail this concept [the importance of music] with the President's favorite-Brooks, who said:
"The earth has grown old with its burden of care
But at Christmas it always is young,
The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair
And its soul full of music breaks the air,
When the song of angels is sung."
-- Phillips Brooks (1835-93),
American Episcopal bishop,
"O Little Town of Bethlehem" Ref
Notice Kerry, in New York at a symphony, never mentioned Hollywood, but the President stated otherwise:
"If you say the heart and soul of America is found in Hollywood," Bush said to loud cheers, "I'm afraid you are not the candidate of conservative values." Ref
How does the President view the source of the arts in New York? With disdain, contrary to what both Kerry and Brooks stated.

Bluntly, not only simply more of the "wrong quote, wrong argument"; but more broadly, more of the "anti-intellectualism" that continues to sweep the country.

Let's not wonder why Robert Redford has left for Dublin. More of the same.

The extreme sacrifice in the Grand Game

The Democrats are still licking their wounds, dazed over the 2004 election. Rather than analyzing "what was done to them" some are spending time focusing on the 2006 election. That is good, but do not forget the short term measures the Republicans will use to appear to be stupid with the hopes of baiting the Democrats.

The problem is that the Democratic leadership in the House is weak, and the Democratic leadership in the Senate has been removed. This leadership vacuum will be the very opportunity the Republicans will use to take advantage of this sense of stun, shock, and awe following the 2004 Presidential-election-results.

One of the RNC goals is to have enough winning Senatorial votes in 2006 to end filibusters. Then, control will be complete. Ref

To close ranks, the Republicans now murmur, "The winning party does not dissent."

At the same time the Republican Strategy will be to incite the Democrats to filibuster, all the while stating that the "basis for the filibuster is unreasonable" with the goal of discrediting 4 Democratic Senators.

Consider the upcoming Supreme Court Justice appointments. There has been discussion about what factors to consider when choosing justices.

However, this "reasonable criteria" conflicts with the Presidents track record. He is known for acting without regard to prudence, relying on his gut and God. Yet, despite the constitution and laws of war before the election, the President scoffed at war-planners.

What is likely to happen is the President, despite the overtures of the week, will appoint to the Supreme Court justices that are most contentious to the most vulnerable Democrats. The goal is not to preserve the Constitution, but to end filibusters in the Senate.

The only thing keeping this President from torching the last fibers of the constitution remains the but a handful of Democrats unwilling to stop passage of unwise legislation with a filibuster.

The Republicans will appoint people not in the hopes to gain approval, but to both appease the base and highlight the "basis of the disagreement" as the issue. In short, the Republicans plan to appoint someone that will shift the debate from to change the issue from [a] "what are they doing" to [b] "the Democrats' disagreement."

By accomplishing this dual-objective of making "apparently credible appointments" and "raising doubts about the Democratic party's opposition", the Republicans hope to prepare for the 60-vote Senate in 2006.

In the meantime and where possible, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 will be undone, and the benches stacked with Justices more inclined to defer to government. What is most needed [an active defense of the constitution] is the very bait which the Republicans will use to defeat the last roadblock to the Constitution.

Indeed, 42 USC 1983, one of the few tools the civilian population can challenge government abuses, could very well be removed form the suite of checks on abusive government power.

Four Democratic Senators have been targeted. The Democrats know this and say, "we need to make our message known."

The Democrats would be wise to clearly state the "reasonable criteria" that they plan to evaluate the upcoming appointments to the highest bench. Do so in terms the public, especially the Republicans, can appreciate. Otherwise, by 2006 the Senate and the Constitution will be lost.

The Republican base needs to be reminded by the Democratic leadership: The desired "option to make a personal choice where to put your Social Security funds" is at risk so long as this nation appoints justices that put at risk anyone's right to make personal choices in other areas.

The Democrats need to credibly block the absurd appointments. Also, they need to credibly make the case to Republican> core constituents that their civil rights and religious interests are being put at risk because of these appointments. The President cannot credibly argue it is "for the individual's right to have control" in re Social Security, all the while denying that right when it comes to matters of individual health choices.

Without a vigorous effort to let the nation know the "reasonable basis for the filibuster," the current "reconciliation overtures" should be seen for what they are: Mere posturing in advance of setting up those last remaining Democrats in the Senate for a final fall in 2006.

The challenges is great. The Democrats may fail to block absurd appointments. They may fail to defend their fellow Senators who must engage in filibusters. They may fail to challenge the Republican's spin.

Now is not the time to fall into their trap. For if the Democrats fail to rise to the occasion, there is every prospect the nation's civil rights legacy of the 1960s will come undone. The IRS audit of NAACP is merely a sign of the gathering momentum.

If this comes unglued as quickly as is possible, then we'll understand why Robert Redford made the right choice in 2004 and moved to Dublin, Ireland. The country will be seen for what it is: Doing more of what is most egregious to our Constitution and civil liberties, and less hospitable for all to raise family or engage in private pursuits.

A nation of intolerance cannot hope to attract the needed labor pools and immigrants required to sustain its wealth nor repay its debts. We should not be surprised why the dollar continues to plummet against major currency reserves: The needed wealth creation is at risk at the very time that combat operations and national debts are likely to increase.

It remains to be seen whether the constitution or the dollar is trashed first. The stock market loves disasters. [ More . . . ]