Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bill Moyers Interview

Bill Moyers continues to be a voice that needs to be heard. On Truthout is an interview of Bill Moyers by The Christian Century; Moyers has much to say but here's a brief excerpt:
If the Bush administration were to ask you for your advice, what would you say to them?

(snip)

What would I say now? Fire the ideologues and assign them to scrub the floors at Guantánamo for penitence. Stop confusing neocon pundits with Old Testament prophets. Read the Bible for humility's sake, but for policy's sake commit to memory the report of the Iraq Study Group. Don't sacrifice any more soldiers to prove you're in charge; get the soldiers out of the line of fire between Sunnis and Shi'ites. And remind your hirelings of Winston Churchill's definition of democracy as the occasional necessity of deferring to the opinions of other people.

What kind of response did you get from your speech to cadets at West Point, in which you spoke about the limitations and liabilities of war making?

For 30 seconds after I finished there was just silence in that large auditorium, and I thought: "You really blew it this time. You not only lost them, you insulted them." Then one by one, cluster by cluster, row by row, the cadets started standing up and applauding. I had to struggle to contain my emotions. I would like to tell you it was because they agreed with me. The truth is, I think, that they appreciated hearing a civilian talk openly about what they constantly wrestle with privately - the conflict of conscience required in obeying orders from leaders who have taken leave of reality. They listened like no audience I've had in a long time. And afterward they kept me up late in a lively give-and-take.

Earlier in the day I met for over two hours with a score of top cadets who were on their way to compete for Rhodes and Marshall scholarships and the like. They wanted to talk about the environment, science, philosophy, politics, history. The cadets are smart, disciplined and sophisticated people. One just hopes they get the civilian leadership they deserve.

(snip) [Answer to different question:]

Sometimes I think there are too many voices inside my head. Maybe I read too much. But they make sure I never think a matter settled. I'm with Mark Twain on this: "Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul."

What do you think of the success of satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

There can be more truth in a flash of wit than in a full-throated pronouncement by a pundit. I once told Stewart that if Mark Twain were alive today, he would be on Comedy Central. Stewart looked at me as if he wouldn't welcome the competition.

As always, it's difficult to cover Bill Moyers thinking with a a few excerpts. Read the full interview. And click here for a link and thoughts on his West Point speech.

I enjoyed his quote of Mark Twain. I should have a Mark Twain post up in a few days that I've been meaning to do.

There's a striking difference between the words of Bill Moyers and those of George W. Bush. Even when Moyers returns to some of his common themes, he always finds ways to keep the material fresh and to find new ways to makes his ideas accessible. Bush merely turns himself into a parody of a president, parroting the same tired lines over and over without adding insight, facts or reason into his ridiculous statements.

When you hear Bush for fifteen minutes, he encapsulates completely the foolishness of his presidency; there's no need to hear more because every new speech or press conference is the same material over and over—essentially propaganda. It's why we're floundering in Iraq: Bush and his closest advisers don't understand what they're doing and they have no ideas. But, by God, they're determined to put on better photo ops! Karl Rove likes to criticize Hollywood but he has worked hard to turn Bush into a Hollywood product: John Wayne strutting on an aircraft carrier. I grew up liking John Wayne movies and still do but the characters he played were fantasies; there is a place for fantasy in our lives but not in the White House. In the meantime, the nation has been missing a real president for over six years. Somebody like Bill Moyers would have been the real thing. He wouldn't have strutted; he simply would have gotten the job done.

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