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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? 


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