At this time with so many challenges facing humanity, it is more crucial than ever that we band together using objective means of measurement and clear thinking in identifying, understanding, and finding solutions to our shared problems. Autonomy of the individual is very important, for our freedoms allow us to be fulfilled and happy. However, the public sphere cannot and should not be populated by subjective beliefs, if we are to maintain our civilizations and quality of life. This blog is dedicated to examining the political, religious, psychological, and philosophical aspects of our modern discourse in the public sphere, endorsing that which is beneficial, and exposing that which is not.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Forward Doesn't Always Mean Progress

This is an email that was forwarded to me a few days ago. I often receive emails like this. Usually a trip to snopes, factcheck or politifact is sufficient for a rebuttal. But, snopes had not yet addressed this one. So, here's my rebuttal. I have numbered each claim 1-20, and my rebuttal with the corresponding number below the text of the email.

1. If George W. Bush had been the first President to need a teleprompter installed to be able to get through a press conference, would you have laughed and said this is more proof of how inept he is on his own and is really controlled by smarter men behind the scenes?

2. If George W. Bush had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to take Laura Bush to a play in NYC, would you have approved?

3. If George W. Bush had reduced your retirement plan’s holdings of GM stock by 90% and given the unions a majority stake in GM, would you have approved?

4. If George W. Bush had made a joke at the expense of the Special Olympics, would you have approved?

5. If George W. Bush had given Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a set of inexpensive and incorrectly formatted DVDs, when Gordon Brown had given him a thoughtful and historically significant gift, would you have approved?

6. If George W. Bush had given the Queen of England an iPod containing videos of his speeches, would you have thought this embarrassingly narcissistic and tacky?

7. If George W. Bush had bowed to the King of Saudi Arabia, would you have approved?

8. If George W. Bush had visited Austria and made reference to the non-existent “Austrian language,” would you have brushed it off as a minor slip?

9. If George W. Bush had filled his cabinet and circle of advisers with people who cannot seem to keep current in their income taxes, would you have approved?

10. If George W. Bush had been so Spanish illiterate as to refer to “Cinco de Cuatro” in front of the Mexican ambassador when it was the 5th of May (Cinco de Mayo), and continued to flub it when he tried again, would you have winced in embarrassment?

11. If George W. Bush had miss-spelled the word “advice” would you have hammered him for it for years like Dan Quayle and potatoe as proof of what a dunce he is?

12. If George W. Bush had burned 9,000 gallons of jet fuel to go plant a single tree on Earth Day, would you have concluded he’s a hypocrite?

13. If George W. Bush’s administration had okayed Air Force One flying low over millions of people followed by a jet fighter in downtown Manhattan causing widespread panic, would you have wondered whether they actually get what happened on 9-11?

14. If George W. Bush had failed to send relief aid to flood victims throughout the Midwest with more people killed or made homeless than in New Orleans, would you want it made into a major ongoing political issue with claims of racism and incompetence?

15. If George W. Bush had created the position of 32 Czars who report directly to him, bypassing the House and Senate on much of what is happening in America, would you have approved?

16. If George W. Bush had ordered the firing of the CEO of a major corporation, even though he had no constitutional authority to do so, would you have approved?

17. If George W Bush had proposed to double the national debt, which had taken more than two centuries to accumulate, in one year, would you have approved?

18. If George W. Bush had then proposed to double the debt again within 10 years, would you have approved?

19. If George W. Bush had proposed the biggest power grab by the executive branch EVER and upsetting the balance of powers in the guise of “Health Care Reform,” would you have approved?

20. So, tell me again, what is it about Obama that makes him so brilliant and impressive? Can’t think of anything? Don’t worry. He’s done all this in just under a year — so you’ll have three more to come up with an answer.

1. Obama did use a TelePrompTer (the insistence of spelling this word like this is asinine) to deliver his opening statement at a press conference. This is a practice that has been in place for most presidents since the technology has been available. Some are better at using it than others. He has also been accused of using a TelePrompTer to address a class of 6th grade students. However, he was using it to read his remarks on his Race To the Top program. In short, yes he does use teleprompters, but not in any way that could be singled out by any except unreasonable detractors.

2. After a fairly exhaustive search, I cannot find any proof or even a mention of this one. Hundreds of thousands spent on one date? That would be really hard to pull off. Sounds more like something from Brewster's Millions to me.

3. Are they trying to blame Obama for the mess that GM got themselves into? The wording of this one is confusing. Certainly, the GM pension plan was in danger of insolvency, as was the entire company. The federal government stepped in to save the company. As far as the UAW holding majority stock, and being given this by the president, I can find nothing but this. Someone will have to explain to me what the problem is here, because I don't see it.

4. Well, you got him dead to rights on this one. Shall we begin the impeachment proceedings? He was wrong. He apologized immediately after the Tonight Show episode on which the comment was made. The audience laughed at the joke. Should we be condemning each of those who thought it was funny as well. Let he without sin cast the first stone.

5.Once again, we have truth here. But, is this really a serious indictment?

6. An iPod was given to the Queen, yes. But, it didn't contain one single Obama speech. Its contents included the Queen's visit to America, and Broadway show tunes. He also gave her a rare song book signed by Richard Rogers. I don't see anything wrong with this one.

7. It does look to me like he did bow to the Saudi King. However, I think since this is attempting to compare him to Bush, we should see how Bush greeted him. My apologies that I couldn't find a non-derogatory video. I don't know that this really is of great significance for either president.

8.Yes, Obama did refer to the Austrian language. Do you know what language is spoken by most Austrians? I wasn't certain before I looked it up. Once again, this is a simple gaffe, that has no repercussions other than showing that Obama is not infallible. Did anyone think that was the case?

9.The Obama cabinet is far from filled with people who cannot remain current in their income taxes. There were two cabinet nominees who had past tax difficulties. There are 22 cabinet level positions in the Obama administration. One of those who had the tax problems, Tom Daschle, is not even in the cabinet. So, we have one cabinet member with past tax problems. Hyperbole much?

10. I'm torn on this one. Either Obama flubbed a joke in Spanish. Or, he told a joke that doesn't make much sense. He did not continue to flub it, though. Whatever the case in the first statement, he said it correctly every time thereafter. Either way, I don't see that this is a major gaffe. Watch the video, and decide for yourself. His joke did get a big laugh, anyway.

11. Being a bit of a grammar nazi, who admittedly lives in a glass house occasionally, I must point out that miss-spelled was misspelled in this accusation. Now, after viewing the alleged misspelling, I must say that it is too ambiguous to call. You be the judge.

12. In answer to the question, no I would not consider him a hypocrite. I would consider him a VIP, who needs to travel a lot. Every president consumes vast amounts of fuel in fulfilling their duties. That this was on earth day does not make a valid point, just a convenient contrast. It is unfortunate that we have such dependence on environmentally unfriendly substances. But, until we get more renewable sustainable energy sources in place, we will continue to pollute more and more every day. That's the real travesty here.

13. Certainly, this was an example of poor judgement and communication breakdowns. The Obama administration is guilty of this, no doubt. I have nothing positive to add here. This one is a valid critique in my opinion. The very idea is incredibly insensitive to the people of New York.

14. This one is vaguely worded. But, I think this might be the incident referred to in the accusation.
I don't find any information concerning the president failing to send relief funds to the flood recovery effort, though.

15. You should know that the Czar title is not an official title for any US government position. Rather, it is a derogatory appellation, used by those who oppose a particular position or appointee to a position, that originated with the FDR administration. Bush had as many, or more, czars in place than the Obama administration. The fact is that the Executive Branch of the United States Government is charged with carrying out the legislated law of the land. Executive power has broadened and changed somewhat over the years. But, that is its basic role. In order to carry out this function, a president may appoint persons in positions to aid in accomplishing his plans. The simple fact is that this is an accepted and normal practice. It is not evidence of Obama's great mythical power grab.

16. Under the circumstances that the firing of Rick Wagoner, CEO of GM, took place, yes I would have approved. What power did the president have to fire this CEO? He possessed only one bargaining chip here. That was in the form of government aid for GM. If this man remains CEO, we won't help you. What's wrong with this? Bringing the Constitution into this is a rhetorical red herring.

17-18. I will take these two together, as they are closely related. According to Politifact and their commentary on the Congressional Budget Office's updated debt projections, this assertion is only half right. Read the Politifact article for the breakdown. The fact is that, yes, the national debt will rise outrageously in the next few years. It has indeed risen outrageously already. A large part of this is the economic difficulties extant from the Bush years. You know, two wars, the wall street toxic debt debacle. It is Obama's challenge to lower the growth of our debt. Is he doing a good job? Not as well as we need him to, no. But, the economy is showing signs of growth, and steps are being taken to balance the national budget. And, the national debt doubled during Bush's time, as well, with a full trillion of it being toward the end, around the time of the economic troubles Obama inherited. So, I think that the Obama administration has a huge undertaking in getting us back to fiscal responsibility. But, to lay this all at his feet is not a fair charge.

19. Obviously, this is loaded language that doesn't even make a specific charge. Nobody is really happy with the health care reform bill in the way that it was finally passed. Some think it is the devil himself incarnated in the guise of socialism. Many of these leveled charges both ridiculous and untrue at this bill. Do you remember the death panels, and the coverage for illegal immigrants? This is more of the same baseless rhetoric. According to a poll reported on CNN, however, the people who oppose it for not being liberal enough, and those who are for it, together outnumber those who are against it. This accusation requires a whole other posting to address it fully. Maybe it will be the next topic I tackle. In any case, it is legislation that many administrations have tried to push through. But, Obama's is the first one to get it done. But, as far as power grabs go, George W. Bush's administration greatly expanded the power of the Executive. Obama's main wrong is in not explicitly giving up some of the ground taken by the Bush administration.

20. As I've shown in the last 19 point rebuttals, Obama is not perfect. He is as human as the rest of us. He has inherited a difficult economic situation. He has not done anything worthy of impeachment. Nor has he been disregarding the constitution. He is an expert on Constitutional Law, after all. He knows what it says. His administration has been incredibly successful in some ways. In other ways it has disappointed. Nevertheless, I maintain that there is not much to be gained in comparing Obama to Bush. There are plenty of valid criticisms of Obama, and his administration. But, with a few minor exceptions, this email doesn't address them.

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