Thursday, March 11, 2004

"I'm A Uniter, Not a Divider"
Bush Said it, Clinton Did It
Our Greatest Weapon Against Terrorism

A uniter, not a divider

[left brain stuff:]  One of George W. Bush's most famous quotes for his 2000 campaign was : "I'm a uniter, not a divider."  This has generated a lot of commentary.  This post  by Melanie  at Daily Kos, entitled, "I'm a uniter, not a divider," generated 249 comments.  It is interesting that Melanie wrote about the quote in a religious context, referring to the practices of some previous Presidents of extending welcome to members of minority religions. 

An article  in Salon, referring to the quote, provides the following example of Bush's inclusiveness:

"I'm a uniter, not a divider"

George W. Bush talks with David Horowitz about going from patrician to populist -- and from party boy to presidential front-runner.

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By David Horowitz

May 6, 1999 | I like George Bush. He has a strong set of core convictions, including a significant religious faith, but he is also genuinely tolerant, open and warm-hearted toward people with whom he disagrees.

He has made, for example, the strongest statements of any Republican candidate about including homosexuals in the American family, and treating them with Christian charity and civic respect. "I was taught," he said in response to Trent Lott's infamous remarks, "that we should look after the beam in our own eye before searching for the mote in someone else's." [...]

The bold emphasis is mine.  It seems to be a strange warping of reality to think that, before the election, Bush was touting his openness to homosexuals.   Over the subsequent years, many persons have been critical of Bush's statement about being a uniter.  Many bloggers have provided counterexamples, or just plain disbelief (1 2 3 4 5 6 7).  Others have emphasized the importance of Bush trying to stay true to his self-portrayal as a uniter (1 2 3 ). 

One of the rules in my household is that, if you are going to criticize something, you have to be able to offer something better.  (You don't like to go to Applebee's, ok, where should we go instead?  you don't like the way I load the dishwasher, show me a better way.)  Can anyone offer something better, an example of really being a uniter, not a divider?  How about ex-President Clinton?  (Link found va Matthew Yglesias, who calls this a "must read.")

by WILLIAM J. CLINTON 42nd President of the United States
January 12, 2004 Doha, Qatar

[...]The defining feature of the modern world is not terror, nor is it trade nor technology, although terror, trade, and technology are manifestations of the defining feature of the modern world, which is its interdependence--a word I far prefer to "globalization," the more common word, because for most people globalization has a largely economic meaning. "Interdependence" is a broader word. It simply means we cannot escape each other. And our relationships go far beyond economics. The main point I would like to make about the interdependent world that applies to the relationships between the United States and the Islamic world is that the interdependence we enjoy has been of great benefit to some of us, but it is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable.[...]

Now, the United States has enjoyed good relationships with Qatar under Republican and Democratic administrations. In good and bad times, you have been our friend, and I am grateful. Our relationships with the rest of the Islamic world, both in the Middle East and elsewhere, are not all that good. Sometimes they're good and sometimes they're not so good. Why? Well, there are differences. There are deep historical wounds. There are honest and perplexing misunderstandings. That's why this meeting's a good thing. Serious good people of good will can get a long way just by having honest conversations. So I have been asked to come here to participate in that conversation, and I would offer four observations: We need to do more to understand how the two major players here understand each other. We need, secondly, to improve our capacity for self-criticism. Third, we need to identify our common interests. And, fourth, we need to build the habits of mind and heart necessary to end the habit of demonizing those who are different from us. Striving to understand how each other views the world requires at least knowing that our attitudes toward one another are born of history, faith, circumstance, national interest, and collective psychology as well. Too many Americans know too little about the Islamic world, and much of what they know they learned after September the 11th through the narrow lens of terror. It is important but not sufficient, because what people do out of anger, pain, and fear both darkens and distorts reality. If people in the United States better understood the glorious paths that Islam took in its early centuries, they might better understand the frustrations of many people in the Muslim world today as well as their dreams for a better future.[...]

{right brain stuff:] Mr. Yglesias chose to not comment on Clinton's address, but as of this writing, nine others have posted comments.  I would like to add some commentary of my own.  Clinton is right that global interdependence is the the defining feature of the modern world.  What was one consequence of the 9/11 attacks?  Demand for oil fell, oil prices went into the basement, and many Islamic countries lost considerable revenue.  What was one consequence of the invasion of Afghanistan?  Increased opium production, and increased supply of heroin in the USA.  These are examples of the great significance of global interdependence: you cannot attack your enemies without harming your own cause. 

It may well be true that the greatest weapon we have against terrorism is for us to be uniters, not dividers.