We Can’t Handle the Truth!

If you are interested, here’s the link to today’s Vermont Edition discussion with Jane Lindholm of Senator Leahy’s proposal for a Truth Commission. (The link to VPR is here.)  When you get to the VPR webpage, click on the listen link. To get a sense of the depth of passions this issue raises, however, you should go to the emails below the introductory paragraph.  I think I recognize some of smarter comments as coming from contributors to this blog…

Obama’s speech starts at 9 tonight.  Look for Vermont’s Governor Douglas to be sitting in the presidential box – a sign that Obama hasn’t given up on symbols of bipartisanship.   Note also who is giving the Republican response – Louisiana Governor Bob Jindal.   It is a chance for him to get some national exposure and – possibly – compete with Sarah Palin as the media speculates who is next in line for the Republican presidential nomination.   Note that Jindal had a chance this weekend while on the talkshows to take himself out of the running for 2012.  He did not do so.

Obama is likely to offer a blizzard of policy proposals. The key point to take from his speech, however, is the tone: how does he balance conveying a sense of optimism in the country’s future with the need to educate the public regarding the problems ahead, particularly as they relate to the economy?   Reagan was a master at this – but Reagan was running against government. His mantra was “government is not the solution – it is the problem!”  Obama has the tougher sell – he needs to convince people that government will be part of the solution.

The other interesting issues will be whether he continues to make appeals for bipartisanship, and the anecdotes he uses to appeal to the “common man.”

I’ve set the over/under on applause lines at 6.    For standing applause by Democrats only, the line is 3.

For tonight’s word game, look for the following:


American spirit



  1. Charlotte,

    You say George Bush should be prosecuted for murder because he put soldiers in harms way, lied to do it and disregarded the consequences? Surprisingly, there’s always a slight chance of people losing their lives during wars/military engagements– I know, shocking.
    Additionally, there was no draft. The soldiers and marines involved made a tremendous sacrifice by enlisting into service and defending the country on their own accord. Instead of viciously condemning the whole issue, maybe you should extend some gratitude for the ones defending the liberties and lives of people like yourself. If not, I guess we should have prosecuted JFK for miscalculating the Bay of Pigs Invasion. He must of had no concern for the consequences and had reckless disregard for human life. Or better yet, maybe we should have prosecuted his administration for the Vietnam War– especially since conscription forced so many Americans into “military slavery”.

    Good for you, its great PR to sell books for Vincent Bugliosi. It also sounds like he is a brilliant mind who, like yourself, is clearly politically unbiased and has a lot of popular support among his peers [How many other lawyers are enthusiastically supporting you on this issue in your Vermont race again?]… I guess if something is written in a book or said in the media, there’s no chance of it not being completely 100% true. After all, facts could never be manipulated to serve some other end. It’s not like radically extreme movies or books would ever be made implicating George Bush as the one behind 9/11, especially since everything in text or in the media is true.

    You say that you are fascinated by how the media is ignoring this issue. What a shame. They must be too caught up in spreading their absurdly leftist propaganda or strategically presenting the new “stimulus bill” in an inaccurate way to sugarcoat it– or too busy trying to silence political commentators with any remnants of conservative beliefs.

    In conclusion, here are some other things previously issued or not properly addressed by the media… Guantanamo Bay was found to be like “club-med” with no violations and very accommodating. I think one congressman said better than situation in US prisons….and ironically…Obama has upheld Bush’s tactics of imprisonment and
    perhaps even “high pressured questioning” [torture] in Afghanistan… Why? – Because they are reasonable and necessary—no press coverage

  2. Prof. Dickinson,

    I’m surprised that you repeated the trope that Reagan said “government is not the solution to the problem; government is the problem.” Mickey Edwards, in his speech here in the fall, first called to my attention that Reagan introduced that famous sentence with the words “In this present crisis.” Granted, Obama was taking the converse of Reagan’s position in today’s crisis–but reproducing the Reagan trope is potentially dangerous. Also in his first inaugural, Reagan said: “Now, so there will be no misunderstanding, it’s not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work–work with us, not over us; to stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.” This is arguably something that Obama would agree with.

  3. Jeff,

    And I’m surprised you view the Reagan quote as a “trope”! While it was true that it was uttered in the midst of an economic downturn (or crisis), it signified a sea change in public policy that dominated American politics until, well, now. And Reagan made clear that it was not simply a rhetorical device – government, in his view, really was the problem! Consider the description, in his words, of that problem that preceded his famous utterance:

    “But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.

    You and I, as individuals, can, by borrowing, live beyond our means, but for only a limited period of time. Why, then, should we think that collectively, as a nation, we’re not bound by that same limitation? We must act today in order to preserve tomorrow. And let there be no misunderstanding: We are going to begin to act, beginning today.”

    And how did he act? By trying to roll back government spending and taxes, by deregulating industry, and by privatizing government functions. In the end, he fell far short of his goals and, in the process, helped create a structural deficit that dominated the political landscape for a generation. But this was no trope – it was the enunciation of a basic governing philosophy that applied at all times – not just an economic crisis. For confirmation, you need go no further than Bill Clinton’s acknowledgment in his 1996 State of the Union address – at a time of economic prosperity – that “We know big government does not have all the answers. We know there’s not a program for every problem. We have worked to give the American people a smaller, less bureaucratic government in Washington. And we have to give the American people one that lives within its means.

    The era of big government is over.”

    Now, if Edwards is trying to imply that neither Reagan (nor Clinton) discounted the need for the federal government to provide some fundamental services, such as national defense, protecting the poor and the elderly, he’s right. But make no mistake about it – their declarations that big government was done was no mere rhetorical device. And that’s what makes the Obama gambit of such interest. If he’s successful, he may reverse almost 30 years of a dominant government philosophy (sometimes observed in the breach) that preaches smaller government is better government.

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