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Evicting the occupant of the bully pulpit

by Ogi Overman

Odd that his name would pop into my head lo these many years after he’s faded from the public consciousness, but strange as it may seem, I miss Ross Perot. Being a pre-Monica Clinton Democrat, I never gave a second thought to voting for him, but, given what we’ve got now, he sure looks good by comparison. Of course, you could randomly pull a wino in off Hamburger Square, clean him up and get him in rehab, get Rove to teach him a few catch phrases (‘“Freedom’s on the march,’” ‘“Bring it on,’” ‘“Mission accomplished,’” etc.) and drill him on the art of feigned sincerity, and he’d look good by comparison, so don’t get me started.

Perot, like Whatzislip, was good at turning a phrase often enough to get it ingrained. The one that endeared him most, I thought, was his pet line, ‘“Now that’s just sad,’” that he could sneak in after virtually any critique of any situation. But another line he used that, in retrospect, we should have paid more attention to, was the one about using the office of the presidency as a ‘“bully pulpit.’”

If nothing else, Perot understood the raw power of having a worldwide audience at your disposal. He realized that, in both the business and political worlds, it is the chief executive who sets the agenda, who puts items on the table and takes them back off, who calls the tune and expects the dancers to fall in line. It is the top dog ‘— and no one else ‘— who decides the priorities, sets the direction the country will take, and holds sway over literally every facet of our lives.

Sadly, tragically as it has turned out, so too does Bush. He may not understand much outside his black and white world, but he knows he’s got a pulpit and he’s enough of a bully to use it exactly as he sees fit.

Imagine for a moment what life would be like today had the Supreme Court not deprived Al Gore of his rightful place inside that bully pulpit. Many of the issues that were on his agenda and suddenly disappeared once The Duh assumed the mantle have again made their way back onto the table. Because there is such a vacuum of leadership, it seems that the body politic has lately jumped inside the bully pulpit and is about to wrest control of it from our learless feader. Once again ‘— and certainly not because the ostensible president or his trusty sidekick, Deadeye Dick, wants it this way ‘— Americans are talking about important issues that had gotten sublimated, eliminated, ridiculed or otherwise shoved off the table.

Remember how Bush pooh-poohed global warming as junk science? Unfazed by overwhelming scientific evidence, he pulled out of the Kyoto Treaty, which was the first tipoff that he was listening to the snakes in his head (or in his staff and cabinet). We can only hope that the damage done in the ensuing six years thanks to his ideologically induced ignorance is not irreversible.

And do you think drilling in the Alaskan wetlands would’ve been considered for one moment by President Gore?

Until the past few months, Bush has been totally silent and unconcerned about the nation’s health care crisis. Clinton saw it coming, and had not Congress been in the hands of a Newt-led GOP at the time, we’d have a sane and compassionate health care system today.

Oh, and how long did it take W & Co. to be dragged kicking and screaming into the era of renewable energy? Remember how Big Time Cheney called his oil baron buddies in for a secret meeting to set our national energy policy and then tried to deny it happened? Had Al been able to use his bully pulpit to challenge both the public and private sector to find and perfect alternative fuels and energy sources from the numerous possibilities, think of where we might be today.

The entire neo-con movement to which the whole gang subscribes, in fact, has run off the tracks. Their ideology of using military force to spread democracy throughout the world has backfired not only in Iraq but in Palestine and Iran as well. Of course, their epiphany comes too late for the families of 2,500 dead American soldiers and another 25,000 who are missing limbs.

An issue dear to my heart, embryonic stem cell research, may well revert to the individual states rather than the federal government for funding thanks to Bush’s caving in to the Rapture Right. I can’t help but wonder if Al were in office and had put an Apollo-like effort into stem cell research, that perhaps my MS-stricken wife might be walking today. California has taken it upon itself to start massive funding for stem cell research, but ‘— get this ‘— a couple of right-wing fundamentalist whacko holier-than-thou groups have filed suit to prevent it.

Now that’s just sad.

Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly.com, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. on ‘“The Dusty Dunn Show’” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen on ‘“Triad Today’” Friday at 6:30 a.m. on ABC45 and Sunday at 10 p.m. on UPN48.

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