I once had cause to define Voting as the Language of Democracy. Today I am in the business of identifying some of the men and women that shape America with their brains and talents and the power of their pen. I simply want to explore the role of the News Media in making the new Canaan the envy of the world, and giving more meaning to the Beauty of American Politics which was the central theme of my last article in which I have tried to focus the pros and cons of American Politics as I see them. This article should be seen as a continuation of that effort.
My point of reference today is a book I have just finished reading titled “The Price of Loyalty” written by a Pulitzer Award winning reporter, and one of the best in his chosen profession, the gentleman named Ron Suskind who I also believed is married, like Arnold Schwarzenneger, to one of the Kennedies of this world. Mr. Suskind writes with the clarity and authority of another juggernaut Bob Woodward who in some ways can be described as one of the shakers and movers of Politics in this country The Price of Loyalty and its review are currently making the waves at a time America is getting ready again to either terminate or renew the contract of the current landlord of the White House in the four year ritual that has made the Promised Land the very center of gravity and the beacon of Democracy around the world.
I am a Nigerian American with so much love and admiration for my adopted country. But like the proverbial “Odidere” as beautifully captured by Commander Ebenezer Obe in one of his unforgettable lyrics on “Odidere” and its passionate love and attachment or bond with its home in “Iwo,” I simply can never get myself to ever forget my own home or “Iwo” in Nigeria. Once I started reading “the Price of Loyalty,” I simply could not let go, until I finished the Book. Before that, I had reluctantly read another book titled “The Bush Country” by John Podhoretz. I used the word “reluctantly”because I am not a great fan of George Bush and I guess John was probably commissioned to write that book to coincide with George W’s attempt to finally and convincingly win the White House on his own merit. He had narrowly won the presidency last time, by losing the popular vote to Al Gore. He had won by TKO as they say in Boxing, and as an indisputable son of privilege for much, if not all of his adult life as the first born of George and Barbara Bush.
These two Books all go to reenact for me the Beauty of American Politics where both sides of the Isle are never short of brains to frame and articulate their positions, and leaving the rest of the country to then take their decision based on what they all see as the superior argument. The Yorubas to which I belong, have one philosophical saying “Bi awo se nlu, beni awo se njo” Just like you have wonderful drummers, you also have wonderful dancers to complement one another in a kind of symbiosis. No country on the surface of this Planet exemplifies that observation better than America. It does not matter who is president today there are more than a hundred waiting in the wings in either of the two major political parties to take over. It is very much unlike my country with “the winner take all mentality” which presumes that presidential material is the exclusive preserve of only one Party, and the rest of us are idiots. Obasanjo personifies that characterization of Nigeria, and that is one of the reasons, the country is going no where, but down, under Obasanjo’s clueless dictatorship The contrast epitomizes for me the beauty of American politics.
The men and women who constantly articulate this awareness for American masses especially in the News Media and in the world of communication and writing, is precisely what I am about in this article. Because competition has remained the cornerstone of American Politics and Development, that is why America never gets tired of organizing a series of Awards and Prizes in Music and Entertainment, in the Academy of Sciences, Pulitzer prizes in Journalism, in endless Motor Shows at the Jacob Javit Center in New York, in Country Music Awards at the Grand Opri in Nashville, Tennessee, in Grammy Awards, Oscar Awards, Black and Hispanic Entertainers Awards, American Idol Awards not to talk of so many in Sports of all description, and the grand finale of them all, the Nobel Peace Award in Oslo, Norway, and so many others that time will not permit me to name. In my primary school days at St. Thomas’s in Akure in the mid 50s, the end of the Year is usually marked with prize-giving Day in much the same way like it is done in every level of education today in America including Head Start programs like Kindergartens where graduation ceremonies are held for three to five year old children to create an early awareness in them and their parents that Life itself is all about competition.
It is a wonderful country where majority of Americans are indoctrinated to always believe “the Best is yet to come” Jimmy Carter once wrote a Book to launch his Presidential ambition way back in the early 70s. The title of the book is “Why not the Best?”. I have also read that book, and another one on Bill Clinton titled “First in his Class.” I have also read the thriller and the best seller authored by the most charismatic American President in living memory. That book is titled “Profiles in Courage.” You just have to give kudos to America, and come to terms with why it is the only country on Earth, to answer to the appellation “God’s Own Country” The only tribe or race that can beat that, is probably the Israelites who were referred to in the Bible as “The Elect of God and the Chosen People” That appellation for the Jews only have meaning when you factor in American support and time honored and permanent friendship of America with the Jews and the State of Israel. If you can accept that analogy, I think you can make the case that it was America that God Himself had used to fulfill the amazing predictions He (God) had made for the Jews in the Scriptures. That was precisely my motivation for calling America the promised Land.
Democracy was born in the Media. No Media, no Democracy. I guess we can all say that without any iota of contradiction. The big difference between America and the rest of the world, and especially with the less developed world, is with the powers of the Media. I have seen Obasanjo the so=called Champion of Democracy in Nigeria, issuing threats to the News Media and a particular Newspapers for publishing the truth about the role the Presidency must have played in the treasonable effort of some of his hatchet men in Anambra State, to stage a coup against a democratically elected Governor Ngige. Our President was going to close down the Newspapers if it did not retract the story. Only in the third world, and only in Nigeria can such rubbish have occurred without some reprisal. Any American President that tries that kind of stupidity will certainly not go unpunished. If that President is not impeached, and politically damaged for life, there is a chance, he would not get a second term.
Why? Because the Media awareness and sophistication had reached such amazing levels in this country that the world can no longer ignore it. Not with the works and doggedness of juggernauts in the field which include some men and women that have more or less become institutions in their own right if you ask me. I bring back to you the great Walter Cronkite and the late David Brinkley, Peter Jennings, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw, and Bernard Shaw, Charles Gibson, Brit Hume among several not to talk of Barbara Walters, Diane Sawyer, Paula Zann, Gwen Ifil of the News Hour, Claire Shipman and a so many others. Many of them are news men and anchors and interviewers who have always set the pace for others coming behind. They are so diligent in what they do that they can stand before Kings and Queens. Some of them are loved and respected even more than the Politicians they all cover including the very President of the United States.
The talk show hosts are a breed apart in the way and manner they shape American Politics. Requiring special mention are the likes of the one and only Larry King for CNN, the great Oprah Winfrey, Tim Russert of NBC, Bob Schiefer of CBS, Chris Matthews of the Hardball Fame, Charlie Rose of PBS, Chris Wallace and the unflappable Ted Koeppel of Nightline News, John McLaughlin, Jim Lehrer of the News Hour, Peter Robinson of Uncommon Knowledge, and Geraldo Rivera among others. All these men and women have become national treasures of inestimable value selling America in ways that the average politicians cannot. This takes me to political commentators like Patrick Buchanan, Eleanor Clift, James Carville and his wife Mary Mattalin always on the opposite sides of the political spectrum, even though they go back home to share the same bed at night as husband and wife. Only inAmerica.
How about Bob Novak Jim Hunt, Margaret Carlson, and the other male Carlson, Paul Begala and then the wonder boy George Stephanopoulos, the great George Will of ABC News, and the last and not the least the great Mark Shield, Syndicated Columnist, David Gorgon of Havard University and Bill Schroeder of CNN and David Broder, Joe Klein and Thomas Friedman of New York Times. The list is inexhaustible. These are authorities who have become oracles in their chosen field, making analysis and commentaries on individual politicians and political developments and situations across the country that are hard to come by anywhere else in the World. I studied in the United Kingdom and was privileged to see and study newscasters and commentators on BBC and independent Television in the days of Robin Day and Angela Rippon, and so many others. Nobody does it better than America is all I can say. This reminds me of similar Radio and Television personalities in my country that I grew up knowing as a young boy. I remember with some nostalgia the likes of Nelson Ipaye with his rich baritone, Horatio Ageda, Michael Enahoro and Anike Agbaje Williams in the old WNBS and WNTV of old. I remember some of the powerful and prolific columnists like late Alhaji Ajose, Allah De, Gbolabo Ogunsanwo Ohonbamu and Awojobi of the University of Lagos, Elder statesman and Journalism legend, Tony Enahoro, Peter Pan, Wole Soyinka, Tai Solarin, Lateef Jakande, the late Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, the late Bisi Onabanjo alias Aiyekoto, Oniororo and unflappable Rueben Abati. Those were the days. Those men and women did make their mark, but today, most of them are forgotten like other National Heroes because we keep no records or immortalize our own national idols and treasures like they do in America. It is regrettable, but it is the truth.
Let me now try and end this article with my impressions, and take home from my reading of “the Price of Loyalty,” and “Bush Country” Iike I stated in my very first paragraph in this article. I see the “Price of Loyalty” as a satire of the Presidency of George Bush based on first hand information and recollections of his first Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Paul O’neil, an erudite in his own right who the President himself has spoken about in superlative terms, once upon a time, and certainly before the grapes had gone sour. The book written in lucid and very readable language is a masterpiece in the sense that it did not directly indict the President and his unique style of leadership which I also coincidentally agreed with, in my own article titled “George Bush is smarter but sneakier than his political opponents are willing to publicly admit in public” posted by most of the Nigerian websites about a month ago. George W is an expert at picking the brains of people around him, even including family members. He did that successfully in his debate against Al Gore, and he did it against his own brother Jeb Bush, and would do it against whoever emerges from the Democratic list of contenders. Picking other peoples’ brain is not such a bad idea for a leader, but being so arrogant about it is a different ball game. He had done it even with Dick Cheney who had started out as the man to help the Texas Governor short-list and pick a suitable Vice President but ended up being tapped by the President for the same job. That was vintage George W., and is never going to change. He is even more deadly today because he is now using the juggernaut power of the Presidency which can open any door in the whole world. That was how he was able to get the Congress to give him a blank check to start an unnecessary War with Iraq, knowing fully well it was a win win jamboree for him while he is going to use the same gaffe to pull the rug off the feet of the Democrats who may challenge him for a second term. He had done it against his own father. You would have thought he was a proud son of his father, and he never failed to publicly acknowledge that, but when it came to picking a role model. Who did he pick? It was Ronald Reagan in America and Winston Churchill in world politics. George W is a man to watch. We have got to be scared of him. If you don’t believe me, go ask Ann Richards, the former Governor of Texas.
I am hundred per cent sure Dubya was before the Iowa caucus preparing himself for a showdown with Howard Dean who was being toasted as possible winner before his Iowa meltdown. I myself, I had thought the choice was going to probably come down to Dean and Wesley Clark as running mate. that was long before the debates had begun. I am today on a slightly different wave length not just because Howard did not do as well as was expected in Iowa and New Hampshire. He could lose in the two States and still go on to clip the nomination, because he is talking the right stuff most of the time, minus the exuberant howling, but articulating or framing the right stuff in a way that is scary to matured voters and senior citizens and the Jewish Block vote and even the Black votes, and in a way that he could be easily ambushed by George W who has now become the moral equivalent of a famous Ibadan masquerade popularly known as “Ololu”. who is more feared than is respected, and can easily ambush you, if you give room for it.
George W may be superficial in knowledge, but he knows how to easily pull the rug on candidates like Howard Dean who are quick to shoot from the hip like the cow boys say. Bush would set him up and nail him in the Debates with words coming out of his mouth, and that would be the end of it. The good News now is that he may not even meet Howard dean at all. The only candidate for now who has the greatest antidote to the Bush poison is John Kerry the War Hero. But he too has an Achilles feet in his opposition to the NRA in the South. I guess he would somehow have to modify his views on them to give himself a fair chance of winning some of the states in the so-called Bush country. But if Kerry emerges the candidate, which is now a clear possibility, and if he is able to find an acceptable candidate possibly Senator Graham of Florida or John Edward of South Carolina, and if he survives beyond the big seven primary, I honestly believe John Kerry can floor George W in the debates and go on to send him to the Turkey farm in November.
America is smart enough to know that the republican controlling the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary does not bode well for the future of America, when all is said and done. That is my hunch, and the American voters as once acknowledged by the Houdini of American Politics almost always get it right in the final analysis. They will figure it out again, and make George W. a one term President like his father. If the War of attrition continues unabated, and Al Queda ever pull a fast one, one more time, God forbid, forget it, the wind of change can easily sweep away George Bush in a heartbeat, without any question in my mind. Nothing is written in stone in American Politics, because American voters are still among the most sophisticated in the World. And the great Tip O’neil is right again, “All politics in America are local” I might add that it all begins with everyone’s wallet and pocket book. Trust me.
I honestly believe that “the Price of Loyalty” was preparing the grounds for that coup de grace while the “Bush Country” was trying to counter that move without saying so in so many words. The whole argument of the “Bush Country” Book was to negate and debunk the notion espoused by Ron Suskind and to project George W. as the closest role model and succesor to Ronald Reagan, that the Republicans could ever find in an Election year. Ron Suskind, on the other hand, was more or less saying that the Emperor is not only naked, but seriously vulnerable, and flawed and therefore beatable.. “The Price of Loyalty” has again reopened, with inferred logic, that George W. had missed diligently reading and assimilating the CIA Briefs Reports that George Tenet, the CIA Director, has prepared for him, thus missing a chance to know, up front, that 9/11 was a tragedy that could possibly have been pre-empted or nipped in the bud, if the President had been diligent and painstaking enough to read all the briefings given to him like Bill Clinton would definitely have done, because the two are not in the same league when it comes to intellectual suasion and depth.
“The Price of Loyalty” had also gone to great length to prove, albeit, with circumstantial evidence, in large part, that George W. was driven more by personal vendetta than by any ideological conviction or leadership to go after the spider man in Iraq. Suskind and Paul O’neil clearly believed that the policy of containment already put in place by Clinton was working fine, and that going to war with the spider man and his rag tag, crippled and war-weary Army was not worth the bloodshed of so many Americans, and the billions of dollars already expended, and putting America at logger heads with much of the rest of the World, including her traditional allies, and throwing down the drain the reservoir of good will around the world that had made America the compassionate leader of the Free World. The Book was in other words reframing the issues to be debated and decided by American voters at the coming presidential Election Using a one time insider in the President’s kitchen cabinet like Paul O’neil as the anchor was indeed a master stroke that is only possible in America.
I take off my hat for America and the principle of Freedom and truth on which her founding fathers had molded this Nation on a rock-solid foundation. You also have to give kudos to the News Media in America for living the true meaning of the creed of their founding fathers, and making sure the three arms of Government do the job assigned to them by the great American Constitution. I thank you for sharing a part of your week with me by reading this.
I rest my case.