S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Power Corrupts

Has the current Bush administration been corrupted by power? This is today's question.
Every time our current president (OCP) or the vice-president make veiled threats against Iran, many, including Iraq, get very nervous about their sabre-rattling. To us, it sounds and feels like Iraq all over again. Despite assurances that they have "no intention" of invading Iran, we do not believe them. "No intention . . . " is the same as politicians saying they have no intentions to run for president. We believe this administration is fully capable of invading another Middle East country, with or without congressional authorization. You cannot count on their word. This group has the power and the will to be aggressive. And when they are convinced of the correctness of their views, they do not hesitate to act with untempered power.

Some think so - My curiosity about where this comes from was aroused by a recent (1/29/07) piece in U.S. News & World Report, which provided a brief review of an interesting new research study, "Power Corrupts? Absolutely."
The research was done by Adam Galinsky (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University), Joe Magee (Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University), M. Ena Inesi and Deborah H. Gruenfeld (Stanford Graduate School of Business). To expand my question, I quote from the article:
Summary: A new study finds that the more power leaders have, the harder it is for them to grasp just what the world looks like to the people under them.
Walking a mile in another person's shoes may be the best way to understand the emotions, perceptions, and motivations of an individual; however, in a recent study that appeared in the December 2006 issue of Psychological Science, it is reported that those in power are often unable to take such a journey.
. . . Galinsky says that this research has "wide-ranging implications, from business to politics." For example, "presidents who preside over a divided government (and thus have reduced power) might be psychologically predisposed to consider alternative viewpoints more readily than those that preside over unified governments."

What is the reality? Taking apart today's question means looking for evidence of corruption from what we can gather from news items, using ideas from the summary. Those include: emotional intelligence, ability to see the perspectives of those under them, having had experiences similar to those under them, and the capacity to accept the different motivations of those under them. Is there evidence that these leaders do not have these necessary capabilities? Does Congress, in this divided government, need to step up and exercise true balancing power to any actual corruption?
Possessing emotional intelligence - A person's religion can be a very important part of identity and self-respect. Religious intolerance hurts the feelings of its victims. This concept can be enlarged to embrace entire cultures or even nations. When our current president makes remarks that are offensive to Islam, it can provides fuel for criticism of the U.S. from other countries. It shows his lack of emotional intelligence, a lack of understanding of how things he says will hurt feelings, will cause others to perhaps loose face. This International Herald Tribune story gives an example, from which I quote,
A senior Chinese government official issued a rare public rebuke of President George W. Bush on Thursday, accusing the American leader of waging a "unilateral" battle against terrorists that had worsened global tensions.
The official, Ye Xiaowen, head of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, said in a front-page article in the overseas edition of the People's Daily newspaper that Bush's past references to a "crusade" and to "Islamic fascism" were verbal gaffes that revealed his effort to turn the fight against terrorism into a religious war.
Partly as a result, he said, the United States had lost support for the war in Iraq and frittered away the good will Americans gained after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
"The more they oppose terrorism the more terror they produce," Ye said. "How many more troops will they send to die in the meat grinder?" of Iraq.

Seeing others' perspectives - Since taking office, the administration has made a singularly vigorous effort to deny the facts of global warming. As part of the administration's refocus on the economy, OCP made a speech at a Caterpiller plant in Peoria, Illinois. The administration is far behind what even large corporations, including Caterpillar, are doing to save the planet. Here is the quote from the Washington Post, this time about global warming:

As he toured the facility here with Jim Owens, the chairman and chief executive, though, Bush made no mention of the schism between him and the company over climate change. Owens and Caterpillar joined nine other major corporations last week calling on Bush to support mandatory caps on emissions generally believed to contribute to global warming. Bush rebuffed the idea but proposed cutting gasoline consumption 20 percent over 10 years.
Asked about the disagreement with the corporate executives by ABC News after the visit, Bush said "I appreciate their call" for caps but repeated his preference for innovating out of the problem. "There needs to be time for some of these technologies to kick in, to give them a chance to work," he said.

Having varied life experiences -Our current president was raised in a dynastic family with much privilege and protection from natural and logical consequences in his elite world. He appears to lack empathy for those who struggle economically. From the Washington Post, headlined, "Bush, Dems Have Different Economic Views," here is a quote from the president:

"Workers are making more money. Their paychecks are going further. Consumers are confident. Investors are optimistic," Bush said in a speech Wednesday at Federal Hall on Wall Street.
Accepting that others have different motivations - Putting loyalty to the administration above all else is a charge that has often been leveled against the Bush administration. Dozens of officials have had to resign in protest, as they were repeatedly asked to do things in which they did not believe, or say things that were not true. They put ethical principles above their careers. They were motivated by ethics over expediency and power. Vice-President Dick Cheney's deputy, "Scooter" Libby risks going to jail because his ethics became suspect. If convicted, it will be for lying and obstruction of justice, having been unduly motivated by loyalty to the administration. The International Herald Tribune story about the "Scooter" Libby trial headlines, "Letter from Washington: Libby trial pits loyalty against self-preservation."
I. Lewis Libby Jr., the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, is at the center of one of Washington's most fascinating legal battles in years, charged with lying to a grand jury.
. . . These are tense days for the discreet Libby. Trials can pit loyalty against self-preservation, and loyalty has fared poorly here. The parade of Libby's erstwhile colleagues (and friendly journalists) undercutting his position has been stunning. And what to expect of Cheney's testimony?
. . . [witness Cathy] Martin said she and Libby had discussed media tactics, including possibly giving an exclusive to a chosen reporter or sending a spokesman onto the Sunday talk shows — "one way to really clean up something that's happened during the week," Martin said. Perhaps Cheney could go on "Meet the Press." But there were disadvantages: He could be "pulled into the weeds and the specifics."
Generally, Martin added, the staff liked to keep Cheney "at a pretty high level." The trial might make that hard, for Libby and for his former boss.

Will the administration tell the truth about Iraq to Congress? In the near future I will explore the above questions in the light of the recently released classified National Intelligence Estimate. Intelligence will once again be pitted against the expedient. If it does not smell right, it will again be up to Congress and the media to ferrite that out.

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