Twenty years ago in the film,”The American President,” Andrew Shepherd made a speech that described the opposition as being interested in just two things: “Making you afraid, and telling you who to blame.”
Twenty years later,.the fear and blame strategy continues to dominate right wing politics. And the speech made by the fictive President Andrew Shepherd, written by the prescient Aaron Sorkin, and played by the too charming Michael Douglas, might well be given today by our current president, the besieged Barack Obama.
Be Afraid, Be very afraid!
Right now we’re being told to be afraid. Very afraid: Of Ebola, of Isil, of the Affordable Care Act, of a higher Minimum Wage, of Leaky borders, and of the “Fake Science” of Climate Change. Above all, we’re told to blame our twice elected president (whose birth certificate is still being contested by the reality challenged Donald Trump), for all of it.
Yesterday I saw a You Tube clip of Bill Clinton being interviewed by Fox News’ Chris Wallace, several years after he left office. Clinton spoke, adamantly about his pursuit of Osama bin Laden.He left no space, not a second’s worth for Wallace to comment or ask a question. He said that although he had failed, he had not given up as had his predecessor. Soon after that “failure” and a sexual scandal that had the hounds at his heels for over a year, the public forgave and forgot, at least mostly. Like Monica, we found him irresistible. And Clinton’s popularity soared.
Clinton Failed and Gained, While Obama Succeeded and Lost
But where Clinton failed and gained, Obama succeeded and lost. He got bin Laden and passed comprehensive health care reform, without a whiff of personal scandal. Yes, they screamed Benghazi., Benghazi , Benghazi. But it barely crossed the blood/brain barrier before it frittered away into the ether. Today his success is rarely mentioned. By anyone. Hardly ever! If McCain had won and had done the same, we would all be wearing little McCain lapel pins with bin Ladin’s head stamped on them.
We live in a young and naive country. We overlook our errors and hype our successes. Our need for comfort trumps our desire for knowledge and truth. We’ve never lived with the reality of that knock at the door that threatens destruction of ourselves and our world.
That’s How you Win!
There is no outside solution to this dilemma. The dilemma starts and ends with us. Not the president. The Right is right about this one: it begins with being afraid and ends with blaming others.
As Mr. Sorkin informs us in his film, ”That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections.”
I’ve included the You Tube clip from “The American President.“ I found it worth watching. Perhaps you may as well.