Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Overstatesmen

I come before you in praise of three national assets, and to laud three men of towering stature and even greater public posture. These stalwarts of civic virtue have been given an ability to give us not only the Truth, but also even more than that. They are not merely statesmen; let us now hail the overstatesmen.

  • Charles Rangel (D-NY)
    • The Draft -- Mr. Rangel took the alarming statistics showing that Americans of African ancestry join the military disproportionately more than those of Asian or Hispanic ancestry, and bravely argued that, despite his district being underrepresented in the military, and despite those of European ancestry volunteering in proportion to their slice of the overall population, the government needs to force people to risk their lives in its service:
      There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way.
      As The Moderate Voice put it:
      Planning a life is unsettling enough for young people these days. Rangel is essentially using the uncertainty of having to factor in a draft, to be imposed in the middle of wartime to accentuate feelings against the war (which many Americans don't like right now anyway) as a POLITICAL BLUDGEON [emphasis theirs].

  • Edward M. ("Ted") Kennedy
    • On Hunger:
      We have 36 million Americans that are going to bed hungry every night. 36 million Americans! And 12 million of those are children!
      While it may not be fair to the others in this list to use a subject of Mr. Kennedy's personal expertise as evidence of his robust ability to say more than the mere truth, this clear statement shines out as an exaggeration of a thermonuclear sort. Mr. Kennedy, with no need to support his statement with a citation or other evidence, is clearly swimming in his element here.

    • Health Insurance is a favorite topic for the Senator, who casts a truly enormous shadow among his peers. Since he counts paying insurance premiums as a basic right of man, despite the fact that no insurance company ever healed a patient, dried out an addict, or even wiped a red nose, he can say this:
      But even those favorable trends still leave us with 39 million uninsured Americans. Few working families are more than one pink slip or one missed pay period away from being uninsured. And now all the positive trends that contributed to modest improvements have turned negative.
      Mr. Kennedy will long be remembered for his ability to recall really big numbers at will, as if patriotically inventing them on the spot.

  • Al Gore
    • The Internet -- Back in the early 1990's, when the Internet was growing at 8% per month, Senator Al Gore was its legislative champion. Few in government outside academic and defense technology circles understood its importance, but Mr. Gore, to his credit, did. But when CNN's Wolf Blitzer asked candidate Al Gore about his qualifications for the Presidency in March, 1999, Vice President Gore responded:

      GORE: Well, I will be offering -- I'll be offering my vision when my campaign begins. And it will be comprehensive and sweeping. And I hope that it will be compelling enough to draw people toward it. I feel that it will be.

      But it will emerge from my dialogue with the American people. I've traveled to every part of this country during the last six years. During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.

      What is notable is the ease with which he takes credit for the work of countless technologists and visionaries who were busy creating the Internet when Mr. Gore was still smoking dope at Harvard and in Viet Nam. Historians will long wonder how Mr. Gore overcame his youthful wandering to master this herculean task, creating a global network several years after its apparent inception.

    • Global Warming -- where to start?
      • How about here:
        We sometimes emphasize the danger in a crisis without focusing on the opportunities that are there. We should feel a great sense of urgency because it is the most dangerous crisis we have ever faced, by far. But it also provides us with opportunities to do a lot of things we ought to be doing for other reasons anyway. And to solve this crisis we can develop a shared senseof moral purpose.
      • Or here, in a speech about Hurricane Katrina, in which he likened the Global Climate Deniers to Neville Chamberlain:
        We are facing a global climate crisis. It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences.

The gifts of overreach displayed by Messrs Gore, Kennedy, and Rangel stand above the pitiful talents of mere politicians. These are not the vain poseurs, not mere strategists, nor those mired in tireless campaigns of preening self-aggrandizement. These men of greatness, this historical triumvirate of addition, are the true overstatesmen.

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