[OPE] Problem of balance: Bush versus Spitzer

From: Jurriaan Bendien (adsl675281@tiscali.nl)
Date: Fri Mar 14 2008 - 20:20:58 EDT

Writing in the Financial Times, James Carville claims "Politics is a rough and tumble business, and yet there seems to be an effort by the commentariat to sanitise American politics to some type of high-level Victorian debating society." (FT March 13 2008). "Every time one campaign's surrogate says something mildly offensive about the other candidate, resignation calls are swift." 

But the question goes deeper than that, once you've folded your copy of the Times. The real question is whether American politicians can balance anything at all, and engage in substantive, honest dialogue in the media to do so.

President Bush, preaching at the national religious broadcasters convention in Nashville, Tennessee on March 11, 2008 called on the crowd to "join me in sending our love and prayers to Billy Graham." 

He continued that "Some members of Congress want to reinstate a regulation that was repealed 20 years ago. It has the Orwellian name called the Fairness Doctrine. Supporters of this regulation say we need to mandate that any discussion of so-called controversial issues on the public airwaves includes equal time for all sides. This means that many programs wanting to stay on the air would have to meet Washington's definition of balance. Of course, for some in Washington, the only opinions that require balancing are the ones they don't like." 

 In concluding his speech, the President declared that "the effects of a free Iraq and a free Afghanistan will reach beyond the borders of those two countries. I believe that success of these two countries will show others the way. It will show others what's possible. And we undertake this work because we believe that every human being bears the image of our Maker. That's why we're doing this. No one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave."  

In reality, the deteriorating security situation and absence of law and order meant the growth of slavery in Iraq, with traffickers able to operate without fear of punishment. What do you think that happens when people have no employment and no means to survive? The irresponsible policies of the world's financial elites lead directly to an increase in debt slavery, and from there it's but a small step to real slavery. It was Billy Graham who recommended dat Nixon should bomb the dikes in North Vietnam if the Paris talks failed, a policy that on Nixon's own estimate would have killed a million people. It was also Billy Graham who stood with Bush Senior at a presidential news conference on January 16, 1991 with a bible in his hand, to give his blessing for the first Gulf War. He declared at the time: "There come times when we have to fight for peace" going on to say that out of the present war in the Gulf may "come a new peace and, as suggested by the President, a new world order." Onwards, Christian soldiers! If the mortality surveys are anywhere correct, the Bush family - who claim to be inspired by Billy Graham - have presided over the killing of literally millions people in Iraq. The Bush "culture of life" consists of refusing even to count the deaths. 

The "public airwaves" in Iraq are in reality censored, and half of all the indigenous christians in America's new colony have fled the country, because they are now being persecuted, and in some cases murdered there. All very well to say of Mr Bush to say he believes "every human being bears the image of our Maker". It might make sense if you still have your face and your limbs. But now think of all the war survivors who are mutilated, diseased and disfigured for life. God doesn't bring back the image. Actually, the American Fairness Doctrine was introduced in a cold war atmosphere of anti-Communist sentiment in 1949. If Mr Bush doesn't like it now, it's obviously because he wants more freedom for his own propaganda outlets. All's fair in love and war, isn't that right? 

Apparently not. Eliot Spitzer, the Austro-Jewish Democratic Governor of New York renowned for his "battle against corruption" was arrested for having it off, at great expense, with Ashley Dupre. Well, if you make corruption your moral high horse, it's likely that people will find some way to throw you off that too. With prurient interest, the media focused on Dupre, but what is completely ignored is that Spitzer has large company. 

An ABC Primetime Live telephone survey, conducted by female interviewers only on 2-9 August 2004 among a random national sample of 1501 US adults, extrapolated that 15% of all US adult males (i.e. 16.3 million US adult men)  - and 30% of single US men aged 30 and older - have paid for sex. The National Task Force on Prostitution has estimated that over one million US adults have worked as sex workers, equal to about 1% of US female adults (the estimated percentages of male clients are similar in Sweden (13%, Ekberg, 2004) Australia (15.6%, Rissel et al, 2003) but higher in Spain (39%, Leridon, et al 1998) and Thailand: (73%, Anderson & O'Connell Davidson, 2003). Here in the Netherlands, the percentage is estimated at 25%. British researcher Teela Sanders estimates that about 30% of all the world's men will buy sex at some point in life; the percentage of women who buy sex is unknown).

Now what is significant is a former US prosecutor who preferred to remain anonymous said about the Spitzer case: "What's tough in a situation like this is to find the appropriate balance. On the one hand, you don't want to be unfair by prosecuting someone for conduct the average person wouldn't be prosecuted for, but you also don't want to create the false impression that someone is getting away with something because they are a public figure or a celebrity." Except in Rhode Island and Nevada, paying for sex is illegal in the US, but informally it occurs practically everywhere. The point however is that Spitzer himself persecuted sex workers and their clients! 

What James Carville says is quite true: "Politics is a messy business". But that is an apology for anything. What is striking about American politics is its unbelievable, relentless violence, cruelty and moral duplicity - enough to turn anyone off. Hence the new mood among the elites for a "clean, fresh and positive" image in which people are seen to be "nice" to each other, and "don't mention unmentionables". If you say the wrong thing, the ranks close, and you're not part of the team. You need that legitimacy and set an example, even if there is no one "fit to be master" in Washington. 


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