Thursday, January 11, 2007

So Bush Takes Responsibility

by Tibor R. Machan

In his most recent effort to make some sense of America's involvement in the messy war in Iraq, President George W. Bush asserted that "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me." So, what about it?

Ordinarily when someone makes a mistake and accepts responsibility for it, what follows is a sincere effort to make amends, to rectify what was done badly, to repair the damage, to compensate those who were harmed by the mistakes made, etc. Just think of your or my mistake of, say, driving our cars into someone else's. Even if this were really just a mistake—not necessarily negligence and certainly not intentional—we would be required to right the wrong we did. This is why we have insurance, although most of them come with a deductible and so the damage would have to be paid for by us. Or the rates would rise.

If we got into more severe jams, taking responsibility for them would amount to even more serious measures.~ Fines, even jail time, often accompany such assignments of responsibility—just think of what is likely to happen to the Enron executives convicted recently.

Is there anything along these lines involved in President Bush's claim that "the responsibility rests with me?" Or do these words have no concrete implications when used by our president? Is he going to resign? Is he going to pay damages to the families whose relatives perished in this insane war?

Maybe what the president's version of accepting responsibility teaches us is that political rhetoric is thoroughly corrupt. Politicians like Mr. Bush do not mean what they say, but rather use words and sentences to pretend to us that they, like the rest of us, are aware of the requirements of morality. But it is just a ruse—it is all pretense, nothing real.

That, in turn, has some vital implications for all of us citizens of the country where these politicians perpetrate their subterfuge: We need to learn not to trust them.

It is not just Mr. Bush, of course, who engages in this type of empty talk. All the Democrats who claim that they are helping out the working people in American by raising the federally mandated minimum wage are in the same boat. They are really not helping anyone at all. When wages are raised artificially, by government edict, the result includes rises in prices as well as loss of jobs for those whose labor isn't worth the mandated price. All of this is bad for workers, the opposite of what promoters of the minimum wage raise claim. But they make the claim because it sounds good, not because it is true. So, once again, trust must suffer and citizens must learn this. If they paid attention, they would. Unfortunately, most people are busy with their lives and haven't the time and skill to double-check all of what the politicians and their cheerleaders in various forums of discussion claim.

Consider, also, California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's claims that spending huge sums on health insurance for everyone in California is a great idea, that it will improve health care for the citizenry and that it can be paid for without raising taxes. All of this is a ruse, presented not because it is true but because it sounds good. Something for nothing is always a nice fantasy but a fantasy, nonetheless.

In a corrupt political system, one that has departed systematically from the path of limited government—one dedicated to the single just cause governments may pursue, namely, the securing of our rights—politicians routinely engage in prevarication. They must mislead instead of communicate because what they are doing is fraudulent. And if we listen closely to what they say and watch what they do, this becomes evident enough.

President Bush said the responsibility for the mistakes in connection with the war in Iraq rests with him but he will do nothing that would be required if he really meant what he said. If a friend or colleague did this, he or she would earn contempt. It is time these politicians, too, earn the very same from us, namely, contempt.

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