Thursday, January 20, 2005


Four more years - and new fresh faces

As President George Bush gets ready for his second inaugurational ceremony let's think of what the world of poltics has come to.
I saw the stage outside of the White House a few weeks ago. They were still working on it back then. It looked pretty sturdy, as if the ceremony was going to be permanent - like the permanent campaigns of today's politics.

The solid stage on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. made for a great metaphor: only the Commander in Chief is steadfast standing while people around him have to rely on less solid ground. The ramp is just for show - as is politics.
Together with the inaugurational ceremony itself, the last days of scrutinizing Condi Rice makes this all too apparent. When Rice faced the Senate hearings and Barbara Boxer made headlines in her attempt to attack the Bush administration and Ms Rice personally, this too was all about the show. No policies get changed over a Senate hearing. No constituency gets altered. No election is decided inside the Hill. But the perception of politics is in many ways the most important part of politics.

Newsweek did a Kingdon gig on Bush in their latest issue, called Window of Opportunity. (I don't really care much for Kingdon's so called theories - they are just neatly packaged nonsense.) In the article it becomes apparent how spendible people are today. Bush wanted to fire "[b]asically everybody" in his cabinet. And the reporter, Richard Wolffe, makes the obvious mistake of granting W a significant style of leadership. As if the president could decide the game himself. It would be more consistent with today's mediated society that Bush simply had to fire people to open up for new allegiences with a newly elected (and more Republican-dominated) Congress.
And so the story goes. Even people who saw themselves as close personal friends of the Bush family, as Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, were cut off.
But this is not a personal style of leadership. This is a way of dealing with alliances in a mediated society where an old investment can soon turn to be a burdon.
(Some might say that even Nixon did clean out most of his cabinet, but this was definitely out of the ordinary back in 1972.) Today it seems as if politicians in executive office positions need to find fresh faces to build political capital around. Before the media society eats them up.

And when you see those demonstrators on TV, boosted by professional hacks, remember that the U.S. is not really very divided at all and that politics has NOT become more polarized.

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