The Norman Transcript relates two very different reactions to the Boren/Bloomberg event yesterday. From Democratic state Rep. Wallace Collins:
“I didn’t hear any of them speaking about issues like ethanol, which I believe is a diversion. They were in power for almost a decade. Why did they let us get eight more years down the road? Why now?”
Collins also questioned the group’s “lack of action” on issues such as the Iraq war, or campaign mud slinging.
“None of them had the nerve to speak up and talk about the Bush administration,” he said. “I didn’t hear any of them talking about the war. And where was that bipartisanship four years ago, eight years ago? Look at what the Swiftboat veterans did. Did anyone on this panel say that was terrible?”
He makes a strong point, which relates to what I said yesterday. In this decade, the main accomplishment of the so-called moderation of these leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, has been to give political cover to the Bush administration’s pursuit of extremist policies. Take one member of this group, Christine Todd Whitman. On her resignation from the Environmental Protection Agency, the New York Times wrote:
She also found herself in the awkward position of having to renounce and rewrite various rules governing industrial air pollution, rules she had vigorously defended when she was governor of New Jersey.
Finally — and again under White House pressure — she initiated a review of key sections of the Clean Water Act that some fear could weaken longstanding protections for wetlands and streams.
And from her Wikipedia page:
On June 27, 2003, after having had several public conflicts with the Bush administration, Whitman officially resigned from her position to spend more time with her family. In a later interview, Whitman claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney’s insistence on easing air pollution controls, not the personal reasons she cited at the time, led to her resignation.
Think about that. Whitman resigned from the EPA in 2003. The article relating her real reason for leaving was published in 2007, long after it could do any good. If she had any guts to stand up for “moderate” beliefs, she would have done it back when the extremists were at the height of power and causing the most damage, not now that they are discredited.
Another example — Chuck Hagel has made many admirable criticisms of our disastrous foreign policy in recent years, but all the good talk has never translated into actions. Newsweek reported that at the time of the Iraq War resolution, “Hagel took to the Senate floor and spoke in damning, eloquent terms of the folly of the whole affair.” And then he proceeded… to vote for it.
Certainly many people had positive responses to yesterday’s event. An Oklahoma City pastor and professor was quoted:
“It’s a great day for OU and a coup for president Boren,” Myers said. “Instead of the rest of the country looking at Oklahoma and thinking that all that comes out of here is strange, extremist views, they see this forum.” […] “We’re just on the cusp of change,” he said. “Our young people are now realizing they’ve been sold a bill of goods. I hope this becomes the model for other universities to follow.”
And maybe he’s right. If people take the right message from it, that engaging in politics, protecting the environment, and having a non-crazy foreign policy is important, then all for the better. It’s just that based on their records, the members of this panel are not the people to take us there.