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J Walking

Awed by the visit

Let the world meditate for a moment on this picture:
What an amazing country we are.
We aren’t even up to the peaceful transfer of power moment. That is something extraordinary in its own right – something beyond extraordinary really.
This was just the, “Hey, you just kicked me up and down the football field but you won. Why don’t you drop by for coffee moment.”
I am struck again by President Bush’s decency. He is handling this transition with a dignity and honor that must be recognized. How easy it would be for him to be small and bitter and petty. But by all accounts he is anything but. He is doing honor to the office.
But more than anything I am struck by the symbolism of it all. This newly elected president, this newly elected black president being shown his new office.
It is amazing stuff, wondrous stuff.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 8:00 am

It’s one of the traits I like in politicians. To insult one another before the election and get along after is a rare form of grace.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 8:04 am

You know, I just had the thought to compliment the left from a sort of rightish person: In 1999 and 2000, right wing radio was filled with predictions of how the Clinton administration was going to generate an emergency to scotch the election or transfer of power, and I never heard one of those prophets of doom admit that their prediction didn’t come true. It might be that I don’t listen to or read left-wing outlets much, but I never heard a conspiracy theory suggesting that Bush would do the same. I suspect McCain carried the tin-foil hat demographic.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 9:43 am

I haven’t been this thrilled by politics and hope in a very long time.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 11:47 am

Yes, David, the symbols are overwhelming us right now. We have reached some sort of tipping point that I cannot really define – but it is about the Kingdom. It’s not just Obama, or the graciousness of Bush and McCain, Bigger than than.

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posted November 11, 2008 at 3:06 pm

While I may not always agree with President Bush (and I can say that I don’t agree with the President-Elect on all things either), I have always had a great deal of respect for President Bush. . . and this heightens it further.
The pictures of the Obamas visiting with the Bush’s gave me goosebumps. What a time we live in!

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posted November 13, 2008 at 8:41 am

David, Michael Gerson recently expressed the same sentiments about President Bush. Both you and he should respond to Andrew Sullivan’s comments on this characterization of President Bush as decent, because both of you have failed to note that,
“…this president subjected, by lawless fiat, countless individuals to torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, tortured at least two dozen individuals to death, and launched a war where hundreds of thousands of innocents died because of his negligence and hubris. Yes, PEPFAR is an achievement. But set against the legacy of the first American president to authorize torture against mere suspects, to adopt the techniques of the Khmer Rouge and the Gestapo for the US, PEPFAR is sadly overwhelmed.
“No president’s record – in its treatment of helpless prisoners under his total control – has ever been as indecent as this president’s. Gerson was an integral part of the administration that brought torture into the American system of government. He has yet to address this – and the challenge it presents for Christians in particular.”
I wonder, David, if you’re still trying to excuse your participation in this administration. Even though you joined with the best of intentions and focused on issues unrelated to the administration’s manifestly unchristian activities, you were still there. You gave them cover. You lent your good name and good heart to people who perpetrated terrible, terrible things.
Honestly: Decency? And “doing honor to the office?” The shredding of the Constitution, the use of signing statements to justify not carrying out his responsibility to enforce laws, the contempt he showed for government by appointing political hacks to positions with real responsibilities?
I read your book, I’ve read your blog quite often. I thought, “David Kuo really has traveled some distance. He’s escaped the seductions of politics and the lure of idolization.” But you haven’t. Honest to God, with all your spiritual striving, all the trials you’ve been through, here you are ignoring the evil that this administration has done and waxing on President Bush’s “dignity” and “honor.” I’m disappointing in you and disgusted anew by our capacity to overlook inconvenient truths.

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posted November 14, 2008 at 4:04 pm

Agiocambos…Lighten up a bit. The content here was a commentary on the peaceful transition of power, not the abuses of the administration. To paint David with a very broad is also not fair. If you think about it, the country did re-elect this man to a second term. No one is proposing dumping the electoral process to avoid this problem in the future. It is very possible that Bush, the man, is a very decent person, and Bush, the president, was horribly incompetent and misguided. I will be the first to admit that this presidency will probably be remembered as the worst ever. I recall watching the news on the evening of September 11th, and wondering if Bush would shape his destiny from that event, or be shaped by it. By itself, because he proved to be the latter, does not necessarily mean he is evil. Weak, perhaps, but evil, no.

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posted November 15, 2008 at 3:05 pm

Phil, where does the buck stop? Do you realize that were Bush and Cheney to be prosecuted for war crimes, there’s a very good chance they would be convicted? The facts are the facts. And every single bit of additional information that has come out reinforces the conclusion that they knew what they were doing, they tried to hide what they were doing, and when caught they denied what they were doing.
Since this is a blog David has devoted to chronicling his walk with Jesus, let’s take a moment to really consider the practice they institutionalized.
Torture by itself is a very, very hard thing for a Christian to justify. But if you watch a show like “24,” where Jack Bauer catches a terrorist red-handed and then has to torture him in order to prevent an imminent attack and the certain loss of innocent life, then I guess it makes sense. If Jack asked, I’m sure I’d plug in the electrocution machine for him. But such a scenario never occurred in the Bush administration. Instead, we have lots and lots of documentation that Americans and their proxies ordered the torture of men on the flimsiest grounds. And lo and behold, many of them — including U.S. citizens — were found to have done nothing to warrant such treatment.
Phil, you should ask yourself why the word “weak” is the harshest assessment of President Bush you can come up with in your post. It’s very telling to me that you couldn’t even bring yourself to say that the president was a no-nothing and an incompetent in the way he handled the war. Confronted with irrefutable evidence that he disregarded the Geneva Conventions and engaged in the very same behaviors we have labeled torture when practiced by the Chinese, Viet Cong, and the Soviet Union, you concede that President Bush was “weak.” Great. Why is it that no right-leaning Christian I know, except for Andrew Sullivan, has the clarity of thought or the courage to call a spade a spade: Torture is inhumane; and for Christians it is a sin that’s almost in a category of its own.
You know, it’s funny. When President Clinton was in the middle of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, my Christian conservative friends’ positions were very clear: Right is right, wrong is wrong. Sure, we’re all human and we all sin, but President Clinton lied under oath and there’s no two ways about it: that’s an inexcusable sin in a president. In that instance, it was very clear to the pious what was right and what was wrong. And now here we are talking about TORTURE, and they’re either looking the other way, changing the subject, minimizing, Orwellizing (“It’s not torture; it’s enhanced interrogation”) or flat-out denying. In the meantime, our government has not only institutionalized torture but okayed it for use in situations that fall far, far short of the “24” scenarios people love to site.
For a lot of voters, President Clinton’s lies under oath were simply deal-breakers. They were all the evidence we needed to conclude that he wasn’t fit for office. Well, I think that torture is a disqualifier. Yet this president that David Kuo lauds as “decent” gets a pass from the vast majority of right-leaning Christians.
David could have written that despite all of the very, very bad things this president has done, he at least displayed manners and a degree of decorum and even class in the way he greeted Obama, but he went way, way beyond that. He saw that visit as further evidence that President Bush is a decent man — so decent that David keeps getting “struck” by how decent he is.
You know, by all accounts Jack Abramoff has conducted himself decently post-conviction. He has cooperated fully with investigators, he has really come clean in revealing the extent of his illegal activities. Would David be struck by his decency? And if David were to witness acts of decency on Abramoff’s part, don’t you think he’d attach some serious qualifiers to whatever praise he accorded him on this blog or elsewhere? I, for one, wouldn’t just say, “I’m struck by Abramoff’s decency.” I’d say, “Look, the guy is a crook who hurt a lot of people, but at least he’s conducting himself now with a modicum of decency.”
But here we are faced with a president who is a TORTURER, and David is perfectly comfortable pushing all that aside in his post about the gracious welcome Barack Obama received at the White House. David feels no need to remind us or in any way acknowledge that this is a president who has done very, very bad (and, objectively speaking, prosecutable) things.
To the best of my knowledge, neither David nor Michael Gerson nor the more ostentatiously religious right wingers have ever addressed the torture issue. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe you can point me to articles or posts where they really confront this issue. All I know is the silence coming from their quarters.

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posted November 16, 2008 at 10:07 pm

WELL SAID Agiocambos!!!…Well said indeed!
I’m an African-American woman who enjoys reading both, Andrew Sullivan and David Kuo.
And quite frankly, for awhile I wondered how it was that so many right-wing conservative “Christians” could so easily minimize and dismiss the reprehensible actions of George W. Bush and his partner in CRIMES, Dick Cheney!
Then it “struck” me. The primary reason that many Bush supporters are hell-bent on trying to keep the myth alive, scrounging for even the tiniest bit of a redeeming quality in the man is this:
If indeed Bush is the despicable and dangerous man that TONS of evidence now strongly indicates he is_what would that say about the people who believed in him, voted for him, and blindly supported his decisions and deeds?
In particular, what would it say about the “ggod” Christians, many of whom voted for him a 2nd time, despite the madnes that was unfolding in Iraq, at the time, in 2004?!
I’m a Christian. I come from a deeply religious family. I know of no one who’s ever trusted Bush. From the very beginning it was clear to many NON-right wing Christians that the man was at best, at charlatan. A loser.
Though I must confess; he has surpassed even our worst expectations of the nightmare he’d turn out to be. But I digress.
The truth is, I would think any sound-minded person with even a modicum of intelligence and Conscience would find it difficult reconciling how he/she could have been so duped into supporting someone like Bush!
How could such “good” Christians have been so wrong about a man they claimed as one of their own?
And wouldn’t that be an indictment of their own inability to discern such a dark and ruthless “spirit”, if you will, in their midst?!
No. They don’t want to deal with the Truth because THAT would be more than they could bare!
Tis simply better to try to keep the “lie” alive for as long as they can.
But I’m reminded of the words of my dear grandmother (now deceased):
“No lie can live forever baby. No lie can forever.”

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posted November 24, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Agiocambus — I agree.
It takes more than good social skills, charm to be a “decent” person. We are too easily fooled by superficial graciousness. We need to look at the total personality. A decent person does the right thing when it is difficult, expensive, unpopular.
Anyone who makes their living dealing with people can develope social skills. That includes business people, sales people, con artists, serial killers, etc. Whens someone smiles and holds out thier hand, they might just be lifting your wallet or stabbing you in the back with the ohter hand.
Pundits described GWB as a man you’d like to have a beer with.And look what we got — our pockets royally picked and too many bodies to count.

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posted November 25, 2008 at 9:42 am

To the woman who posted on November 16th: God rest your grandmother’s soul! It’s pretty obvious this woman had a solid moral core that she passed on to the succeeding generations.
I agree that no lie can live forever. And already this administration’s untruths about its crimes against humanity are becoming clear.
As further evidence comes to light, it’s going to be interesting to witness how the administration and its supporters account for themselves, and how the rest of the country reacts. I’d have hoped that Obama’s victory was in part propelled by a “never again” conviction on the part of voters. Never again will we embrace torture. Never again will we deny people their dignity and liberty for so little reason, and when the facts come out, make every effort to cover our butts instead of trying to make things right with those we harmed so grievously.
But it seems pretty clear that that didn’t happen. Polls show that quite a high percentage of Americans are comfortable with the idea of “enhanced interrogation” and about the same amount have little problem with ignoring the Geneva Conventions and established standards of decency in order to practice it. Tragic.
Sure, if the public were forced to pay attention to what has actually happened, and certainly if they were compelled to watch these interrogations, learn about the victims of them and witness the consequences, their support for torture would plummet. But most just shrug their shoulders or imagine the whole thing as an episode of “24.” That’s how people are; it’s easy to ignore that which isn’t right in our face. And it’s even easier to ignore things that make us uncomfortable.
I’m more concerned with people who supported this administration, who are well-informed, who wear their religion on their sleeve, and who never miss an opportunity to profess their patriotism.
And, in David’s case, I’m interested in those who actually, meaningfully, materially participated in the administration. I think they have a special responsibility to reconcile what they profess to believe and what they actively or tacitly endorse.
I was raised to believe that Christians — especially those of an evangelical bent — have a special responsibility to behave in a moral manner, lest their actions become a “stumbling block” for those just beginning their J-walk. And I really, really think that “compassionate conservatives” like David and Michael Gerson need to address in depth how they reconcile their admiration for Bush with their moral opposition to torture.
I think you’re right that we ignore, rationalize and contort in order to avoid owning up to uncomfortable truths. And in this case the uncomfortable truth is that we have — and have had for some time — a vast amount of evidence that this administration wantonly, casually and repeatedly engaged in acts that robbed people of their lives, liberty, faith, hope, sanity and the company of their loved ones, and they did so in contravention of the law and, as best they could, away from public scrutiny. The evidence was staring at us, it was heaped in front of us like stinking feces, but all they smelled were roses. And now, with the rot still there and piled higher than ever, all they want to dwell on is how “decent” this man is and how well he has “honored” his office.

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posted November 25, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Don’t hold your breath waiting for the right-wingers to admit they were wrong. That is never going to happen. They will do anything to avoid that, including distorting what happened, isolating themselves from all incoming information that might contradict their beliefs, accusing the media of liberal bias, etc.
Just listen to the latest from Rep. Michele Bachman — the Rep who accused Obama of being “anti-American” and said journalists should investigate members of Congress for anti-American leanings. Although the video of that Chris Matthews program has been played all over the world, she claims she didn’t say what she clearly said, and that it’s an “urban legend”. Next thing she’ll probably claim it wasn’t her but a Michele Bachman impersonator.
In addition, people seem to prefer quick easy, hair-trigger solutions to problems. That idea is reflec ted and reinforced by TV shows like 24 and all the cop shows. As Christians, we should be solving our problems using our brains, rather than guns. But just try to support pacifism to the right-winger and they will cut you to ribbons. They will quote Bible verses justifying the harming of others. They will accuse you of threatening their second amendment rights, which to them is as sacrosant as the ten commandments.
Far-right-wingers cannot believe that one of thier own actually did something wrong. And if they are forced to look at the truth, as in the case of Rev. Haggerty, they will simply bundle off the miscreant to some obscure hideaway and speak no more of it.There’s little room for mercy, forgiveness, humility. IT’s all about being right, being qualified to judge others, adherence to the code, an all or nothing view of the world. IT’s us vs. them and banishement is the fate of “them”.

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