most of us, I was taught that being stubborn was
a fault. When I was stubborn as a child, my parents
scolded me. When I was stubborn as a student,
my teachers chided me. "Don't be stubborn," they
all said. "You've got to see the other side, too."
when it comes to the presidential election, stubbornness
is suddenly an American virtue.
may even determine the winner.
George W. Bush excels at being stubborn. Say what
you will about the commander in chief: He doesn't
change his mind. Not a day goes by that he doesn't
tell voters "a leader must be firm in his decisions."
so, even during a week when hostages have their
heads cut off, we are told, as we are always told,
that things in Iraq are improving, that the future
despite endless proof to the contrary from committees
and investigations -- even those under his control
-- Bush insists that Sept. 11 and the invasion
of Iraq are inexorably connected.
if a bad jobs report comes out, or the budget
deficit is projected into the stratosphere, Bush
insists the economy is good and growing.
despite howling from the education community,
he insists his No Child Left Behind idea is working.
says these things over and over. He will not be
moved. He clings to the same line he gave yesterday,
the day before and the month before.
amazingly, many Americans see this as strength.
the other hand . . .
Sen. John Kerry's vacillations are viewed as weakness.
The fact that he might vote one way for a certain
part of the Iraq war, and vote another way later
is not viewed as nuance, it's ineptitude. He's
a stumbling politician who blows in the wind.
Never mind that many Americans have changed their
minds on Iraq; if a leader does it, he's incompetent.
recent issue of Time, I read several letters to
the editor. One said, "I love that the president
is stubborn enough to stick to his guns . . ."
letter came from Texas, but it could have come
from anywhere. In a world where everything is
so fast, so complex, where you don't know who
owns the company that owns your company, we cherish
simplicity. We want it fast and understandable.
this, the president has been well coached by his
handlers. Say the same thing. Stick by your guns.
A certain number will believe you. A certain number
will think you're lying.
an even bigger number will admire you for not
changing your mind.
I don't care what your political persuasion, this
is a dangerous quality for us to admire.
no debating it
of how far bad leaders could go by refusing to
budge on their rhetoric -- especially if it makes
them popular! There's a famous quote from Winston
Churchill that says: "A fanatic is one who can't
change his mind and won't change the subject."
also a sentiment from Gandhi who basically said
-- and I'm paraphrasing here -- "I want to be
able to change my mind as I age, because it shows
I am gaining wisdom." That makes sense, doesn't
No one wants a wishy-washy president. But shouldn't
we work a little harder before we celebrate mere
repetition? The fact is, Bush has changed his
tact countless times. He ran in 2000 claiming
he wasn't into nation building (which he now is),
wasn't into sending troops to war (which he now
has), and was only into "uniting, not dividing"
(the single biggest hypocrisy of his term).
he never speaks about such things. He doesn't
say, "I learned from my mistakes." The past disappears,
and there are only repeated lines, with clenched
fists, and the admonishing of others who can't
stick "to firm decisions."
week, Bush and Kerry debate for the first time.
I promise you, what most people will remember
will not be some reasoned explanation of a new
policy, but a simple sentence that seems unflinching.
It makes me wonder when we started worshiping
stubbornness, and where have all those parents
and teachers gone?
Posted: September 27, 2004