Former Interim U.S. ambassador to the U.S., John Bolton, was on The Daily Show last night. Give him credit, a certifiable "Bushie" (to use a newly-noticed Karl Rove term) Bolton was not going to be thrown softballs from the progressive Jon Stewart. It was an interesting discussion, but one part made me very angry.
While discussing the current president's penchant for surrounding himself with people of a like mind, Jon Stewart suggested that it's actually a benefit to have members of the president's cabinet who don't actually agree with him. He used the example of Abraham Lincoln, who had men in his cabinet who were not only rivals but who in some cases actively disliked him.
In response, John Bolton said that Jon Stewart was historically in error, basically stating that Jon Stewart's characterization of Lincoln was wrong. It was at this point that I let out a stream of expletives. The nicest word I used was "bullshit"!
Tonight, Jon Stewart took up this point. He had, via telephone, a talk with Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals, an excellent book about Abraham Lincoln's presidency. As she pointed out, Jon Stewart was right and hundreds of historians would agree with him. Amen!
Lincoln is rather well known for having cabinet members who actively worked against him prior to his election. Three of his cabinet members were rivals for the presidency, and each thought that they were a better candidate than Lincoln. Some of their written comments about the 16th president are horribly malicious. However, by his death almost all of them had come to believe in his political genius, and some had grown very close to him. Lincoln gained from his cabinet. Lincoln almost always received a variety of opinions on every important topic. Lincoln made the tough decisions, but it wasn't for want of understanding the issues. This was Jon Stewart's thesis, which John Bolton threw away with a casual, inaccurate comment.
This is a classic example of what's wrong with political discourse in the United States. John Bolton was clearly, demonstrably wrong. If he honestly believed his position, Bolton is woefully ignorant on Lincoln's presidency. If he didn't know whether or not Stewart's comment was wrong, but stated categorically that Stewart was wrong, then he is incredibly arrogant... and ignorant. On the other hand, there's the possibility that Bolton knew Stewart was right, but said he was wrong anyway in order to toe the party line; lying his teeth out in order to make a political statement in favour of the current president.
So Bolton is either ignorant, arrogant, a liar, or all three.
Let's face it, he stated a pro-administration position for the simple reason that some people will see him and agree with his opinion, even though it is wrong, demonstrably, verifiably wrong.
And that's the problem with political discourse in the United States. It's one thing to state an opinion and defend it. Today's partisan pundits go beyond that. They'll state lies as truth, even when it's relatively easy to see the lies for what they are. It's more important to score political points, knowing that television does not offer the ability to refute even a single lie in any kind of depth. This isn't new, it just bothered me because it touched on the Civil War, something for which I'm very well acquainted.
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