Thursday, July 20, 2006

Senator Harkin is not outwitted by a "MORAL AYATOLLAH"

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) made perhaps the most important statement about George W. Bush's veto of the Stem Cell Research bill.

He said: “He's not vetoing it on the grounds that it may cost too much money! He's vetoing it because he says he believes it's immoral. Well Mr. President, you are not our moral Ayatollah.”

For six years, George W. Bush has acted as “moral Ayatollah” of American politics. His pronouncements (written by evangelical christain speech writers) about the moral fabric of American life seem as if he has spiritual authority—authority that the Constitution was designed to prevent any person or group from taking to (him)themselves.

Michael Gerson has resigned as speech writer doctrinaire. He's the one who has put most of the words of “moral” authority into the President's mouth (you don't think a man whose analysis of conflict runs along the lines of “stop this shit” could think up the elegant prose for which George W. Bush will be remembered, do you?). Gerson's most lasting legacy will be “axis of evil.”

Gerson also most likely had a hand in Bush's speech at the National Cathedral in Washington after September 11, 2001, in which he said, “Our responsibility to history is already clear: to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”

Most of the gibberish about “evil” coming from the President's speech writers has to do with evil empires and axes of evil. But they have also imposed the “moral authority” on his pronouncements about the internal affairs of our nation.

In his veto message Bush said, “It crosses a moral boundary that our decent society needs to respect.” This kind talk has been present in much of his other “social conservative” actions. For example, he said of the marriage protection amendment, “If our laws teach that marriage is the sacred commitment of a man and a woman...” Our “laws” teach no such thing. The word “sacred” is nowhere in the Constitution or in law. This is a complete fabrication. The irony seems to have gone unnoticed that he said in the same speech, “When judges insist on imposing their arbitrary will on the people, the only alternative left to the people is an amendment...” (Radio address, July 10, 2004)

What about when the President imposes his arbitrary will on the people?

This President believes that a human being is created when one human sperm manages to penetrate one ovum. Do chromosomes carry the “soul” of a human being? The President and his supporters have repeated this idea so often and that half of Americans believe it. Of course, it is a RELIGIOUS BELIEF, taught by the Roman Catholic Church. No one has a clue when human life begins. However, this President has managed to get elected largely on the votes of people whose NON-RATIONAL RELIGIOUS DOGMA is that this is THE TRUTH. Anti-abortionist forces have repeated this belief over the course of years. Their repetition has not made it true; it has simply convinced a great many Americans that it's true—belief in this “truth” is based not on faith, but on dogmatic acceptance of logical fallacies.*

Based on the belief that a fertilized human egg is a person, the President has vetoed legislation that would allow the government to fund research on the use of cells of human embryos. This belief is a “moral judgment” on the part of the President. It is his “arbitrary will.” It is, of course, not necessary or even desirable for the President’s moral and ethical standard to be absent from his actions. But, when his actions force his beliefs onto the entire nation (according to polls, a vast majority of Americans disagree with him), then he has stepped into the role of MORAL AYATOLLAH.

The problem is that with this President’s personal, arbitrary beliefs come his personal conviction that he is doing God’s will, by appointment from God. In his book, The Right Man, David Frum, another former Bush speech writer, tells of a conversation between Gerson and Bush. After Bush's speech to Congress after September 11, Frum says Gerson called Bush and said, “Mr. President, when I saw you on television, I thought—God wanted you there.” Frum says the President replied, “He wants us all here, Gerson.”

So is vetoing a bill to fund medical research part of God’s will or just good politics (pandering to his right hand?) Who knows? This is what Jim Wallis has to say about the dangers of the President believing God has sent him to do God’s will:

“…a president who believes that… he serves with a divine appointment can become quite theologically unsettling….In Christian theology….The confrontation with evil is a role reserved for God, and for the people of God when they faithfully exercise moral conscience….. To confuse the role of God with that of the American nation, as George Bush seems to do, is a serious theological error that some might say borders on idolatry or blasphemy.” **

Senator Harkin put it more bluntly, but more accurately:

“Well Mr. President, you are not our moral Ayatollah.”

**”Dangerous Religion: George W. Bush's theology of empire,” by Jim Wallis. Sojourner's Magazine, September-October, 2003.

* At least three logical fallacies are in play here:

1) Appeal to Belief: Appeal to Belief is a fallacy that has this general pattern:

Most people believe that a claim, X, is true.
Therefore X is true.
This line of “reasoning” is fallacious because the fact that many people believe a claim does not, in general, serve as evidence that the claim is true.

2) Misleading Vividness: Misleading Vividness is a fallacy in which a very small number of particularly dramatic events are taken to outweigh a significant amount of statistical evidence. This sort of “reasoning” has the following form:
Dramatic or vivid event evidence exists (the particular “vivid” event is the development of sonograms showing fetuses that look “human”)
Therefore, the events of like the vivid event are true.
This sort of “reasoning” is fallacious because the mere fact that an event is particularly vivid or dramatic does not make the event more likely to be true

3) Appeal to Emotion: An Appeal to Emotion is a fallacy with the following structure:
Favorable emotions are associated with X.
Therefore, X is true.
This fallacy is committed when someone manipulates peoples' emotions in order to get them to accept a claim as being true. More formally, this sort of “reasoning” involves the substitution of various means of producing strong emotions in place of evidence for a claim. If the favorable emotions associated with X influence the person to accept X as true because they “feel good about X,” then he has fallen prey to the fallacy.