Friday, January 10, 2014
Doris Kearns Goodwin's blockbuster book on Teddy Roosevelt, "The Bully Pulpit", points the finger at politicians who don't use it. The assumption is that the same attitude TR exhibited in his Presidency should be adopted by President Obama. The hardly hidden comment is that Obama never used the power of his office and is a weak leader. The other suprema bully was Lyndon Johnson. Both Presidents brought fairness to the business world and to Americans in general by attacking the corporations and, in Johnson's era, passing legislation to confront racism and provide health insurance for the poor. In those days, the corporations were so defiant of fairness but feeling somewhat guilty about their monopolies and unfair to labor. The public was behind his efforts. In the case of Johnson, Martin Luther King had already pushed at Washington for Negoes', as they were called then, social equality.
In politics, a bully is revered. The bully is a person of action, one who takes control, shows power, intimidates. At the same time, the bully personality is not one that can successfully achieve the presidency. That politician doesn't connect with the person in the street who struggles and is victim of corporation bullying. The highest paid, most experienced worker is the first one out the door.
Bullying is one of the prominent social problem in schools. Gangs, tribal clubs, and cliques are everywhere and make life miserable for those who prefer to live quietly, below the radar.
Like war and violence bullying is a zero sum game. Our dysfunctional Tea/Republican Congress does not bend whenever Obama mounts his bully pulpit but uses bullying and intimidation to block any progressive legislation, have constructed and spread the big lie about Obama, and have wrecked objectivity in the media. Obama is the enemy, the interloper from Africa. That's how twisted US politics and the once sort of objective media have dropped objectivity and chosen sensationalism to keep print journalism and major network television from sinking further as the primary outlets for news and entertainment.
The Middle East is the boiling pot of bullying, with one group or tribe or religion wanting to seize power over the incumbent bully. The Obama administration has wisely chosen to step back from that cauldron and let those upheavals to be worked out over time. And for this "isolationism", even with the public tired of war making, Republican politicians are calling for Obama to intervene and allow the US to slip into the same kind of mud that engulfed our military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, but, maybe. this time without boots on the ground. Boots on the ground may be wise but it is not aggressive enough for the war makers.
Oppression is the inheritence of the human race. It is hidden until one has power, and, then those not so successful are distained for not being competitive.
Like most negative attitudes, bullying is a learned characteristic. The problem for the world to discuss is what positive results are to be attributed to bullying. Yet bullying in some forms is revered: the aggressive sport coach, the muscular President, the successful business person, the quarterback and teammates, and the unelected head of cliques and gangs.
Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie apologized for the political trouble his staff caused by closing two lanes of traffic to Ft. Lee, NJ and causing monumental backups for four days. For someone who is a known bully and micromanager of every detail of government and the behavior of local politicians, to admit to being the victim by his senior staff is not only contrary to his bullying personality but it is also a clear signal that he may have known about it or ignored it. Regardless he lied about his role as either being passive or taking no action when the most traveled bridge in the world clogged traffic and made the headlines world wide. To be a bully is to cover your tracks that created unintended consequences but is read by the public as an agressive and revered politician.
It's easy to say, "Give up bullying", but impossible to root it our of our genetic makeup.