Thursday, January 20, 2005

ike debates w.

Once there were Republican Presidents who believed in American values, and served as responsible leaders of a democracy. You might disagree with them about policy, but never about core ideals. Once there was Dwight D. Eisenhower. The words of a real American leader's Second Inaugural address serve as a rebuke to the small man who now sits in his place, and provoke a debate between the current President and the hero's ghost: "May we pursue the right - without self-righteousness," says the hero. "May we know unity - without conformity. May we grow in strength - without pride in self. May we, in our dealings with all peoples of the earth, ever speak truth and serve justice." And lastly, "We are .. pledged to honor ... the authority of the United Nations. For in that body rests the best hope of our age for the assertion of that law by which all nations may live in dignity."

I can almost hear the newly sworn-in President respond. "No 'self-righteousness'?" Bush snickers. "I get my orders from God! No'conformity' - but America is a Christian nation! 'Speak truth and serve justice'? What are you, a liberal?" Bush chuckles a little. " 'No pride in self'? Shucks, General, I rehearsed this swagger for years in Texas before I got it right."

"Only in respecting the hopes and cultures of others will we practice the equality of all nations," replies Eisenhower. "Only as we show willingness and wisdom in giving counsel—in receiving counsel—and in sharing burdens, will we wisely perform the work of peace."

W. answers to the approving nods of his watchful Cabinet: "Receiving counsel? Surely you don't mean from ... France? They won't help us with what we really want -- to bring more nations into the US orbit. How will we dominate regionally if we have to go around asking for counsel?"

"We honor the aspirations of those nations which, now captive, long for freedom," responds General Eisenhower. "We seek neither their military alliance nor any artificial imitation of our society."

W. rolls his eyes. "General, surely you mean to say, 'you're either with us or you're against us,' and that we will teach the world to practice democracy in the high form to which we have refined it in Florida and Ohio." The General's picture appears to smile sadly as the 41st President continues to speak.

"You know something, General, you sound like Paul Wellstone." Condi Rice smiles and says "Good one, sir." Bush continues: "And what's this 'honor the authority of the UN' crap? I'm not asking Jacques Chirac for permission to go to the bathroom." Karl Rove nods. "And besides, they'll just tell me to honor the Geneva Convention."

The General points a scolding finger at W. when the Geneva Convention is mentioned. "There must be law, steadily invoked and respected by all nations, for without law, the world promises only such meager justice as the pity of the strong upon the weak."

W. looks away uneasily. "Hey," he says, "that doesn't sound very ... unilateral. You think I'm going to negotiate ... with Iran? Bombing's quicker."

"The law of which we speak, comprehending the values of freedom, affirms the equality of all nations, great and small." Bush and Rumsfeld exchange skeptical glances. "Yeah? Tell it to your striped-pants pals at the UN," says W. "I don't like those mullahs, and the caissons are gonna roll again." Bush stares into Ike's eyes. "What's wrong with you? Don't you want America to be free?"

No nation can longer be a fortress, lone and strong and safe. And any people, seeking such shelter for themselves, can now build only their own prison."

"But ... but ... we're already drafting Patriot Act II," W. replies. Narrowing his eyes, he adds, "General Eisenhower, it sounds like you're not on board with us."

The General only responds, "We look upon this shaken earth, and we declare our firm and fixed purpose—the building of a peace with justice in a world where moral law prevails."

"Maybe in your book," W. answers. "But not if Alberto Gonzales has anything to say about it."