Saturday, October 08, 2005

Americans Need Debate

I just finished watching a video of the speech Bush gave to the National Endowment for Democracy. His speech, which recycled his older arguments for the war in Iraq, lacked any particular details on how he was going to exit Iraq, which I think has become his main bogeyman. But as I watched him, and reflected on the US political system, I realized one thing.

Americans don't have any of the good old fashion debate that we in Canada and other Parliamentary-style governments such as Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, India, Bangladesh enjoy have. Consider this:

Last year four RCMP officers (they are equivalent of FBI in Canada) got shot by a madman who later killed himself. Later it was discovered the killer was supposed to be in jail but released by a weak justice system. The families are calling for tougher sentences for drug-related offences and a new national drug strategy.

Two days ago, Mr. Martin told the House of Commons that he had already had a lengthy meeting with the families of the victims. But what he failed to mention was that this was long time ago, not recently when they were in Ottawa, as his statement implied.

The Opposition immediately crucified him.

Yesterday, the Conservative Party took the matter to Question Period, calling on Mr. Martin to apologize.

"I wonder why the Prime Minister would mislead the families and mislead the House in this fashion?" Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said.

Conservative MP Rona Ambrose called for government action on the families' demands.

"The families were very hurt by the Prime Minister's words. Will the Prime Minister apologize to the families?" she asked.

They all said Paul Martin was accused yesterday of misleading Parliament after saying he had "long discussions" with the families of the four RCMP officers who died at the hands of James Roszko near Mayerthorpe, Alta., this year.

Prime Minister Paul Martin was then forced to apologize.

Remember our sponsorship scandal? A bunch of the government was found to have been skimming tax money. Paul Martin was forced to give an address to the nation, essentially asking them to have faith in him as he got to the bottom of the mess.

This is what leader of the Opposition Stephen Harper said in reply.

"My fellow Canadians.

We have all just witnessed a sad spectacle -- a prime minister so burdened with corruption in his own party that he is unable to do his job and lead the country, a party leader playing for time, begging for another chance.

This is not how a prime minister should act."

Or let's go to Britain. There in the House the Opposition is practically sitting 10 feet away from the Prime Minister.

"We have to raise our demands. We don't want Bush out of the Whitehouse, we want Bush in prison with Blair and all the other war criminals who have brought us to this pass," said George Galloway, an opposition MP to the house.

When was the last time the President of USA was involved in such a debate. I was watching CNN during last year's US Presidential elections, and this is what Aaron Brown said:

"John Kerry will have to be careful in criticizing the President because Americans don't like a direct criticism of their President."

Excuse me, but how else are you supposed to tell the leader of the free world that he is wrong if not by criticizing him. He is the one who is calling all the shots and the place where the buck stops. All Senate, Congress decisions ultimately come to him for a veto.

As I watched the first debate then I realized why Bush bristled whenever Kerry got close to a criticism. He was not used to it.

Where is the criticism of Bush when he gave a false statement in a State of the Union speech? Where is the criticism of Bush when he took his nation to war based on false premises? Where is the criticism of Bush when he referred to Americans in New Orleans as "people in that part of the world"?

Sure, people ARE criticizing him, even some politicians, but Bush does not have to face them in a legislative setting. He exists in the White House, comes to the lawn for a few press conferences (the lowest number so far of any President), takes a few questions, and leaves. He does not have to argue his point in a regular debate as do
our leaders.

This can lead a leadership that exists within a vacuum, as Jon Stewart said recently on an Oprah show. Link is here [a web page containing a video file].

In his words, "Washington has a loss of perspective and you lose respect for the truth It becomes a pursuit of power rather than pursuit of the truth."

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