3 November, 2000
Just four days before the election of the President, I watched as Tom
Brokaw asked Al Gore to pledge on national television not to let campaign
donors sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. He asked the question with great
seriousness, and Al Gore replied with a stern yes. Tom, not feeling
the answer was strong enough, asked again, and while the clock ticked away
on the interview, they bantered about the importance of keeping the Lincoln
bedroom from becoming a Motel 6 for the wealthy.
It’s hard to decide what is more revolting about this interview: that
Tom asked such a banal question, that Al Gore dignified it with a response,
or that NBC decided that the most important issue for Americans was whose
head lay on the pillows of a room in the White House – more important than
the myriad of other issues facing a potential President.
And, even more funny perhaps, was the suggestion by Brokaw that some
impropriety is made by having contributors sleep in the Lincoln bedroom,
that it suggested some influence upon the President. This, while
GE, the owner of NBC, was one of the largest donors to both reigning political
parties, and with it’s combination with Honeywell, is posed to become the
world’s largest producer of armaments. Certainly the CEO of GE won’t
be sleeping in the Lincoln Bedroom – it would be too visible, too loud.
Goodness, his own network might report upon it! Instead, he’ll rest
well knowing that the Pentagon is funneling millions upon millions of dollars
into his net worth – something much better than a night in the White House.
In fact, the contributors who sleep in the White House are probably
the ones Americans should least be concerned about. It’s the ones
who sleep elsewhere who are truly worrisome.
We should just be honest with ourselves about how elections are done
and just put the whole thing up on Ebay. Highest bidder gets the
job, PayPal and MasterCard accepted, all bids anonymous.
8 November 2000
When I was in the Navy, I served aboard a ship that carried cruise missiles.
Our eight missiles could be, and were, armed with six nuclear warheads
each. At a moments notice, all eight missiles could be launched,
cruising just feet above the terrain, and drop their forty eight warheads
on cities below. We were frequently ordered to posts just off the coast
of foreign nations. The word of our presence often signaled the arrival
of American military might. A single ship with an amazing amount
of destructive power - and the Navy has many more.
I talked yesterday with colleagues in New Zealand, and I reflected on
how Americans forget the enormous economic and military power we hand to
a President. Within hours, a President can destroy a nation.
Within months, he can economically cripple it. The President has
the power to kill thousands of people with a phone call, and millions with
a policy decision. (And yet we are encouraged to worry who is sleeping
in the Lincoln bedroom….) It’s a sobering thought, really.
And I wonder if the people headed to the polls ever gave it much attention.
Who would you trust with a nuclear weapon?
Are we citizens of just this nation, or citizens of the world?
And if we are citizens of the world, how does our selection of our president
reflect on our commitment to our fellow inhabitants of this little planet?