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Little Boy Talk about a Global Test
President Bush sounded like a little boy in his State of the Union speech about not needing to ask permission. Kerry acts like a grown up.
By Ed Knudson
In January, 2004, I wrote the following article. In the presidential debate John Kerry referred to a global test to determine when the U.S. should go to war. George Bush attacked the idea in ads, saying again "we don't need the permission" of others to decide when to protect America. Cheney in campaign appearances regularly uses this language. Well, it is really "little boy talk", not a responsible position in a world that has grown smaller and smaller due to communications and transportation changes in the last decades. Kerry's is the grownup position.
Since the State of the Union speech last week one phrase used by President Bush has been returning to my mind. Words make a difference, and they are revelatory of how a person's mind works. The president revealed a lot about how he views himself in relation to others when he said that the United States does not have to ask permission of others to protect national security interests.
It sounds like little boy talk. "I don't need your permission." It's the kind of thing a child says when he wants to exert independence from his parents. A child who needs to say this actually exhibits a sense of weakness about himself in relation to a superior power.
Does the president view himself as weak in relation to others? If so then his mental orientation does not correspond to the facts, of course, since the U.S. represents immense power in relation to other nations. It is not a question of weakness, it is a question of how an adult person will choose to use the power available to him. To hear a president talk of "asking permission" creates uncertainty about his competence to address the great questions of international policy facing the country.
Adults are capable of entering into agreements with others, to act in concert with others, to view themselves within relations and structures of mutual responsibility. That is what the United Nations is. To view the United Nations as a powerful parent may appeal to the right wing talk show hosts but it is certainly not an adult way to relate to the world.
In this current presidential election year perhaps the most important issue is where the next president will lead the country in relation to other countries. We certainly do not want a president who talks like a little boy.
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