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"Growing" in office
By Dr. Michael Bowen
We don't have television in my house, but we borrowed one to watch President Bush's speech of 20 September. Being out of practice, I was just a little too slow with the "off" switch, and didn't manage to shut it off before I heard the first pundit begin talking about how the President had grown since the beginning of this crisis. It's almost too bad that it wasn't my television, since then I could have thrown a brick at it.
The talking heads love to use that phrase, "This President has grown in office." It serves the double purpose of delivering a back-handed slap while pointing out their own Olympian wisdom. In a similar vein, some of our self-appointed media sages have remarked that the terrorist attack was a great break for President Bush, because the times make the man.
Wrong. Times like this may be a great boost for the media, allowing them to really believe for a short while that anything they do really matters. But a man without courage or character will be shown to be a coward and a sleaze when a crisis occurs, just as a brave and honorable man will be shown to be a firm leader, because that's what they were before the crisis, and what they will be afterward. They all thought Harry Truman was a rube, a hick, a small-time machine politician. The most cursory study of his life before the presidency would have told them that this was a man of nerve, character, and old-fashioned common sense. If they'd bothered to look, if they had in themselves the capacity to recognize it, they'd have been able to predict the resolution with which Mr. Truman faced the crises of his day.
They couldn't see it because media people live in a world of appearances, stock phrases, and condensed dumbed-down ideas mixed with a heavy dash of arrogance. They have so forgotten their human frailties that it no longer crosses their mind that there may be more to the world than what is visible from in front of the camera. So long accustomed to having the world look at them, they have forgotten how to look at the world. Most of the really important virtues are humble, private, and completely useless for television. For a television talking head, such virtues are completely below the radar, and if a virtuous man lacks the glamour attributes which television requires, they will think him a simpleton. And when a crisis comes, and a good man's character asserts itself, as it must, they will be completely blind-sided. Then they will proclaim that the President has -- gasp! -- grown, as if a new man had been created by the event.
The pathetic reality is that occasionally a cataclysm -- and that's what it takes -- knocks the blinders off these petty fools, and they are suddenly struck by how tall a good man stands. It's not that President Bush has grown. It's that the talking heads hadn't noticed how very short they are.
Dr. Michael Bowen, a former Naval officer, has a private medical practice in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire. He writes the column "The Basics" for www.AmericasVoices.org, a conservative political opinion and educational web site. His columns also appear in other popular Internet sites, including www.Opinionet.com and www.enterstageright.com. e-mail him at MBowen@americasvoices.org. (c) 2001 by Dr. Michael R. Bowen and America's Voices, Inc.
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