In one of those dramatic monologues by Robert Browning that we all studied in school, a character says of a painting on his wall, "I call that piece a wonder." We are put in mind of Browning by the official Democratic response to President Bush's weekly radio address last Saturday. Delivered by our own 9th District congressman, Harold Ford, that piece was worthy of being called a wonder too.
In roughly five minutes and 537 words, the congressman -- who is famously eager to advance himself politically and plans a statewide Senate race for 2006 -- managed to say as close to nothing as is physically possible in the time and space allotted. It was a Guinness Book feat. But as far as offering any kind of useful contrast to Bush on the burning issues of the day didn't happen. Not even close.
Here is part of Ford's rhetorical runup: "You know, part of the American tradition is for each generation to make life better for the next. So the question is, How do we make it better for our children. Let's be honest, there are challenges and opportunities ahead of us that must be met with leadership that inspires and invests in America's future. We must realize that our future will only be as bright as the decisions we make today allow it to be." Riveting stuff, no?
So how does the congressman deal with the circumstances of the Iraq war and the so-far missing WMDs -- issues that increasingly have Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans wondering if the nation has been lied to by its political leadership? Said Ford: "I voted for the use of force in Iraq. We are safer without Saddam in power. But our continued security depends on our intelligence being accurate and trusted. We must ensure that it is."Dubya couldn't have said it better himself!
Repeatedly the congressman lamented that people in Washington spend too much time "complaining about politics." (Never mind that the official Democratic response is supposed to be a reasoned political complaint!) "That same energy could be better spent fully funding the Leave No Child Behind Act, so when school starts back in the fall, principals, teachers, and parents can all do their jobs better." This was followed by a real clincher: "Anyone who has been in a school knows teachers have it hard enough as it is."
And, again, on the burning question of Iraq and of deception at the highest levels of government: "Instead of complaining about politics, people in Washington could spend their time better by reforming and strengthening our intelligence gathering."
Readers who may doubt that Ford's remarks were quite as banal, as noncommittal, and as beside the point as this summary suggests are invited to read them in their entirety -- as posted on the Flyer Web site, MemphisFlyer.com.
Meanwhile, hearken to the congressman's conclusion -- and its unintended ironies: "This week we celebrate the Fourth of July. We mark the occasion by saluting the veterans and patriots who have defended our freedom. Their courage made America better for us. And it's now time for this generation to make it better for the next."
That cannot be done, sir, by beating around the bush -- or the Bush -- so miserably as this.