Tag Archives: george bush

Opinion: After 150 years, the Gettysburg Address still matters

LincolnIt was just ten sentences long. A mere 273 words delivered in less than three minutes. Yet the Gettysburg Address has resonated through history, finding relevance in every age.

In May 2003, I was researching history in Los Angeles. The news channels had cleared the decks for just one story. One hundred or so miles to the south, President George W. Bush trying to define his own place in history.

The USS Abraham Lincoln was stationed off San Diego after a long deployment, including action in the Bush/Blair war in the Gulf. Beneath a banner of “Mission Accomplished”, a jubilant Bush told the assembled crew and an attentive nation that major combat operations in the Iraq War had ended. In a speech that lacked humility, he said: “We have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world.” Bush boasted of the precision of war, of how “new tactics and precision weapons the guilty have far more to fear from war than the innocent.” Seemingly oblivious to the huge cost in human life, he declared that war against terror, against Al Qaida, was being won.

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Parties on a war footing – but what are they fighting for?

New Year, old sabre-rattling. Gordon Brown and David Cameron are parading their leadership credentials, with a view to capturing an entire nation – the UK, that is.

David Cameron made a speech (transcript here) in Oxfordshire today saying that the country needs a change of direction and a new leadership:

“We can’t go on in these difficult times with a weak prime minister and a divided government.”

You can almost hear the Tory munitions factory roar as they forge this, strengthen that and defeat the other.

And here’s Gordon Brown on New Year’s Eve:

“The Detroit plot thankfully failed. But it has been a wake-up call for the ongoing battles we must wage not just for security against terror but for the hearts and minds of a generation.”

It’s a common political (and journalistic, and marketing) technique to play to people’s fears, but what next in the Prime Ministerial arms race – Brown and Cameron appearing on the decks of rival aircraft carriers, squeezed into military uniform à la George Bush?

Neither leader, for all their fighting talk, seems to have heard of liberty.

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Televised party leader debates: get your worms at the ready

The “worm” is an instant poll tracker which wriggles across people’s TV screens, showing the net negative or positive reaction of a small group of the public to what is happening on screen. Running a worm across a politician’s speech or a debate between politicians has become a not uncommon feature of political coverage across many democracies.

The worm has even occasionally surfaced in the UK – so will it surface again for our TV party leader debates at the general election? And will worms offer a chance for Channel 4 to repeat an Australian trick and put one over the other channels who have excluded it from the debates?

Known in the US as dial groups (because a group of people is each given a dial to twist towards positive or negative), worms have often been the cause of controversy there. Joe Klein in Politics Lost recounts how badly they got the 2000 Bush-Gore debates wrong:

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    @ Tony Dawson, The Brightlingsea Division doesn't fall wholly within the Clacton constituency, only about half of it does.
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    @Stephen Campbell - well said.
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    @ Anthony Hook: “Liberals are, in fact, their Conservative Party” They are now but some, such as former PM Malcolm Fraser, dispute that. Fraser resigned...
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    I only watched the section where Donnachadh and Jenny were arrested but it seemed extraordinarily over the top. It's a good thing that someone was...
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