Thursday, April 28, 2005

On President Bush Reminding Me of President Nixon

Quite unexpectedly, as I turned on the TV this evening to catch an episode of the OC, I discovered President Bush giving a press conference. I decided to watch that rather than sulking around to some lousy Friends episode on TBS. Here is something that struck me as I was listening.

In his opening remarks President Bush had this to say about social security reform:
Secondly, I believe a reform system should protect those who depend on Social Security the most. So I propose a Social Security system in the future where benefits for low-income workers will grow faster than benefits for people who are better off. By providing more generous benefits for low-income retirees, we'll make this commitment: If you work hard and pay into Social Security your entire life, you will not retire into poverty. This reform would solve most of the funding challenges facing Social Security. A variety of options are available to solve the rest of the problem, and I will work with Congress on any good-faith proposal that does not raise the payroll tax rate or harm our economy. I know we can find a solution to the financial problems of Social Security that is sensible, permanent, and fair.
I don't know how common the phrase good faith is in today's political deliberation, but the phrase quickly brought to mind a passage from Richard Nixon's famous Silent Majority speech when he talked about trying to get North Viet-Nam to the negotiating table:
We have not put forth our proposals on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. We have indicated that we are willing to discuss the proposals that have been put forth by the other side. We have declared that anything is negotiable except the right of the people of South Vietnam to determine their own future. At the Paris peace conference, Ambassador Lodge has demonstrated our flexibility and good faith in 40 public meetings.
Karlyn Kohrs Campbell argues that throughout his speech, Richard Nixon creates a rhetorical slight of hand, implying that the US was willing to leave Vietnam as long as North Vietnam was willing to recognize South Vietnam's separte state-status, one independant of the North:
In other words, the success of the policy [Vietnamization} depended on the cooperation of the enemy. It would have required them to acquiesce in the division of Vietnam into two nations, which they had vowed never to do. Given their negotiating record as reported in the speech, there was no reason to expect them to agree. On its face, then, based on Nixon's pwn words, the proposed policy must fail.(Campbell, Critiques of Contemporary Rhetoric, 1997, p. 206.)
In saying that he was willing to listen to good faith proposals, just so long as they didn't involve raising taxes or harming the economy, is President Bush doing the same thing that Campbell says President Nixon was doing--limiting all the options before the debate even begins?


Blogger Patrick said...

Surely you're not comparing the democrats to the NVA or VC?

4/29/2005 8:07 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Though I do think that the spirit of debate and deliberation has become somewhat strained over the past five years between the parties (Though, I don't know how tense things were in the past), I like to think and hope that when it comes time to meet and discuss things, Democrats would at least be able to decide on what sort of table could be used!

4/30/2005 6:02 PM  

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