“Argo” and the Horrible Thought

Thanks a bunch, Ben.

Thanks a bunch, Ben.

“Argo” prompted a disturbing thought that has been haunting me since I saw the picture. I am sorry that I had the thought, and hoped that it had been successfully banished by time and hope. Unfortunately, the juxtaposition of “Argo” winning the Best Picture Oscar combined with the inappropriate and intrusive appearance of Michelle Obama to announce it, complete with a politics-tinged speech that was as gratuitous as it was manipulative, caused that thought to begin burning in my brain again. Alas, here it is.

At the conclusion of “Argo,” former President Carter is heard emphasizing the obvious, that in 1980 he would have loved to have taken credit for the audacious  rescue of the six American Embassy workers from Iran that was engineered by his CIA. But, Carter says, do so would have endangered the remaining hostages, and though it would have helped his politically besieged Presidency (which was lost to Ronald Reagan that same year, in part because of Carter’s perceived weakness in handling the hostage crisis), giving all of the credit to Canada was the right and responsible thing to do.

I am no admirer of Jimmy Carter’s policies, personality, Presidency or leadership. He is, however, an ethical man. He was President before the hyper-partisanship that has rotted our politics, before the “perpetual campaign” style of leadership launched by Clinton, and before every act by every main stage player in Washington appeared to be dictated by the need to hold power, rather than by the needs of the people. My horrible thought is that I believe the current President and his  Machiavellian political advisors would not have done as Carter did, if the “Argo” scenario played out in 2012, as that Presidential election approached. This White House, facing the prospect of defeat, would find a way to leak its participation in the successful rescue, judging its retention of power a higher goal than protecting the hostages that may well have died anyway.

I wish I didn’t have this thought, but I cannot banish it. The unseemly chest-thumping and credit-grabbing over the killing of Bin Laden, the leaking of details about the deliberations leading to it, the deceptive handling of the Benghazi disaster, and yes, the inability of the President’s political strategists to resist attaching the President or his wife to anything remotely positive—even the Academy Awards— while refusing to accept responsibility for any mistake, miscalculation or failure (See Bob Woodward on the disinformation campaign regarding the looming sequester, beginning with Obama’s outright lie in the third Presidential debate, “The sequester is not something that I’ve proposed.”), all have me convinced that the days when we can trust a President to risk his own grip on power for the good of the country are gone, perhaps forever.

As I said, it is a horrible thought, and I fervently wish I didn’t have it. I want to trust and admire our nation’s leaders, the President most of all. But the leaders of both parties have earned this level of distrust, and I see no signs that they are capable of making that horrible thought, and other too, go away.

7 thoughts on ““Argo” and the Horrible Thought

  1. Personally, I’m totally convinced your thoughts are justified. I didn’t watch the awards tonight partly because I found out Michael Moore was one of the Board Members and it made me queasy but mostly because I can’t stand the long, drawn-out speeches the winners feel compelled to give. I loved Argo and am glad it won. MO at the podium announcing the winner, reinforces the hold Hollywood has on her and her starstruck hubby.

  2. [Carter] is, however, an ethical man.

    No, he WAS an ethical man. His behavior since leaving the White House – his public attacks on other Presidents he likely has never so much as spoken to, his actions and words regarding Israel, all these remove him from consideration as a current man of ethics.

    He might once have been (I don’t entirely agree), but he is not now, and has not been for a long time.

  3. Just because it is a sad or uncomfortable thought doesn’t make it wrong to think it. To blindly ignore blatant facts so that you can have an idealized view of society is the kind of thinking that has gotten us here. The kind of society that makes people feel bad for such thought, for blaming them for thinking them, is what has led to the leadership we currently have.

    We sit here with a country on the brink of disaster form an incredible and perhaps impossibly large debt and we have a president who tells us the most important thing we need to focus on is a specific type of firearm that is involved in fewer than 500 deaths/year. He also states that we can’t cut our spending or it will mean disaster and sets in motion plans to punish the country by ordering essential federal agencies to inconvenience or endanger the public as much as possible (the plans to cut back Ag Dept. inspections, air traffic controllers, and so on much more than required by the cuts). That tells you all you need to know. Top it off with the President’s wife presenting an Oscar for a movie tangentally about a Democratic President and why would you NOT think that?

    • It makes me feel like a truther, Michael. It makes me feel like blameblakeart, our resident conspiracy theorists. I’ve studied the Presidents my whole life, and never before felt that any of them would put their power objectives over the lives of Americans.

  4. You are absolutely right on most counts. However, I have to agree with Ab above. Jimmy Carter was an ethical but not effective president, elected in part in a reaction against the vile stench of Watergate (although another hero.of the piece, I’d say, is Ford, who sacrificed any chance of election on his own to close the book on that scandal to prevent a trial that would have ripped the country apart even worse). After his loss Carter did many good works like Habitat for Humanity. However, his interference with George Bush the Elder’s policies leading up to the first Gulf War by talking to other national leaders and trying to get them to vote against the U.S. at the U.N. was quite possibly illegal under the Logan Act, and quite possibly unethical, since it represented an attempt to usurp foreign policy from the then-duly elected and appointed government officials tasked to conduct it who were not conducting it in a clearly illegal or corrupt manner. I also hesitate to say that all of the problems you quite properly allude to, such as hyper-partisanship, perpetual campaigning, and “maintenance of power first” decision making, all came after 1980. FDR arguably governed as an “elected king,” even before WWII, and his ultimately successful attempt to first cow and then remake the Supreme Court is certainly debatable in terms of the good versus the bad. LBJ was the champion politicker, who knew where the political skeleton were and wasn’t afraid to use that knowledge, not always ethically. And let’s not forget Woodrow Wilson, whose “vision” and ways of implementing it arguably fall into the same pattern of a creep toward authoriarianism we see today with Obama. He was also guilty of hyper-partisanship by calling for the electorate to return a Democratic Congress in 1918 to help him pass his agenda (the electorate gave him a resounding “no!”). If we want to go back further we can also talk about Andrew Jackson, who was also all about power, to the point where he threatened to hang anyone from South Carolina who shed blood in defiance of Federal law personally. To be balanced party-wise let’s not forget William McKinley’s creation of the imperial Presidency by pushing this nation into an unnecessary war with Spain (or at least not pushing too hard to keep us out), and Teddy Roosevelt, who openly spoke of the American President as the “trustee” of the American electorate, meaning he could use the power given to him as he saw fit, rather than an office of ennumerated powers. There were flashes of all those problems long before 1980. However, with the era of the internet (where anything can be mass published anywhere in a second) and the “anger industry” publication (where everyone looks for books full of soundbites that reinforce their own views) upon us, they have become the order of the day rather than the exception. I’ll cop to being guilty of hyper-partisanship myself in the past, but at this point neither party has a monopoly on ethics, and in fact bother are pretty bereft.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.