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“A more perfect union”



As we move forward with civility after Tuesday’s election, it’s worth it for critics on the left side of the aisle to note the grace demonstrated in the loss on the right side of the aisle. Do I hear the sound of bygones being bygones? Well, you just never know…

“I urge all Americans … I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our goodwill and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited…” —John McCain

“No matter how they cast their ballots, all Americans can be proud of the history that was made yesterday. Across the country citizens voted in large numbers. They showed the watching world the vitality of America’s democracy and the strides we have made towards a more perfect union. It shows a president whose journey represents a triumph of the American story. It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife Michelle and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House.” –President George Bush

“One of the great things about representing this country is that it continues to surprise, it continues to renew itself, it continues to beat all odds and expectations. You just know that Americans are not going to be satisfied until we really do form that more perfect union and while the perfect union may never be in sight, we just keep working on it and trying…” –Condoleeza Rice



The “Power of &” goes economic



Are you like me and horribly confused by just how we got to this economic precipice? Have you noticed two distinctly different versions of the story from each political campaign? Well, as usual, the operating principle – when seeking truth – is to find the AND rather than the EITHER/OR. Thanks to Fact Check.org and Time Magazine for this exercise in AND.

So, who’s responsible, using the “Power of &”?

The Federal Reserve, which slashed interest rates after the dot-com bubble burst, making credit cheap.

Home buyers, who took advantage of easy credit to bid up the prices of homes excessively.

Congress, which continues to support a mortgage tax deduction that gives consumers a tax incentive to buy more expensive houses.

Real estate agents, most of whom work for the sellers rather than the buyers and who earned higher commissions from selling more expensive homes.

The Clinton administration, which pushed for less stringent credit and downpayment requirements for working- and middle-class families.

Mortgage brokers, who offered less-credit-worthy home buyers subprime, adjustable rate loans with low initial payments, but exploding interest rates.

Former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, who in 2004, near the peak of the housing bubble, encouraged Americans to take out adjustable rate mortgages.

Wall Street firms, who paid too little attention to the quality of the risky loans that they bundled into Mortgage Backed Securities (MBS), and issued bonds using those securities as collateral.

The Bush administration, which failed to provide needed government oversight of the increasingly dicey mortgage-backed securities market.

An obscure accounting rule called mark-to-market, which can have the paradoxical result of making assets be worth less on paper than they are in reality during times of panic.

Collective delusion, or a belief on the part of all parties that home prices would keep rising forever, no matter how high or how fast they had already gone up.



Kathleen Hall Jamieson: Hunkering down in ideology



In discussing one deceptive ad from each of our presidential campaigns, Kathleen Hall Jamieson was asked by host Bill Moyers “how is the audience to catch up to the truth of this?” Jamieson:

“The audience has to break out of the partisan media context that reinforces the belief that these ads are accurate… you hope that that partisan audience has enough exposure to places that give you both sides so they’re able to hear the other side and is able to hear credible sources… to indicate when their side is wrong and when the other side is wrong. It’s easy to hear those times when the other side is wrong, it’s much harder to be in places to hear that your side is wrong. First, because increasingly we’re not going to those kinds of places, it’s also difficult – because of the way we hunker down in our own ideology – for us to hear when our own side is actually not telling us the truth.

Paraphrasing, Jameson said “buy Village Square tickets.”



The low road, version 1.0



As news from the campaign trail get uglier and uglier, as fact takes a back seat to whatever the character assassination flavor-of-the-day, as one needs to bathe after the simple act of watching the evening news, it’s about time for this blast from the past:

In 1800, the Federalist Gazette suggested that if Jefferson were elected over Adams, they would see a devastation of “those morals which protect our lives from the knife of the assassin – which guard the chastity of our wives and daughters from seduction and violence.”

In their version of today’s editorial endorsement, they wrote:

At the present solemn and momentous epoch, the only question to be asked by every American, laying his hand on his heart, is “Shall I continue in allegiance to GOD AND A RELIGIOUS PRESIDENT; or impiously declare for JEFFERSON AND NO GOD!!!”

Worth noting for an advocate of civility in politics (and perhaps duly noted by media critics)?

Jefferson won anyway.



Peggy Noonan: “hit our game in a higher way”



More from Peggy Noonan, author of “Patriotic Grace”, on Meet The Press yesterday:

We may in our country may face difficult days ahead. And even immediately ahead. When you keep your mind on that you release, whoa, this whole partisan gamesmanship is OVER, it’s yesterday. What we need now is grace. We need real patriotism in which patriotism isn’t used as a weapon in a campaign. Patriotism actually needs grace in order to function. We need to be our best selves right now, we’ve got to hit our game in a higher way. We’ve got to be forbearing. We’ve got to be adults. I sometimes think one of the problems in America is there are too many people who don’t want to embrace the role of a grownup.



Declaration on Civility and Inclusive Leadership



From the Center for the Study of the Presidency comes an intelligent and inspirational work, Declaration on Civility and Inclusive Leadership, setting an appropriately high bar for our nation’s leadership. It’s high time we stop being primarily Republicans and Democrats and become (deep breath now, this is radical) Americans. As David Abshire (this week’s Village Square speaker) and Max Kampelman write:

Civility does not require citizens to give up cherished beliefs or dilute their convictions. Rather, it requires respect, listening, and trust when interacting with those who hold differing viewpoints. Indeed, civility and inclusive leadership have often been exercised in the American experience as a means of moving to higher, common ground and developing more creative approaches to realize shared aspirations.



“Beware the terrible simplifiers.”



Bill Moyers commentary on the week of political goings-on with the Reverend Wright media blitz contained in it both a finger-wag at politics as usual (hard not to love that) and the daggone best quote I’ve ever heard. Moyers:

Politics often exposes us to the corroding acid of the politics of personal destruction, but I’ve never seen anything like this – this wrenching break between pastor and parishioner. Both men, no doubt, will carry the grief to their graves. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the non-stop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race. It is the price we’re paying for failing to heed the great historian Jacob Burkhardt who said: “Beware the terrible simplifiers.”



Purple State of Mind



If you like The Village Square, you’ll love the new movie Purple State of Mind. The website is worth checking out and you can buy the DVD online as well.

Hat tip to Lea, who has her finger on the pulse of – well – everything.



On civility and a conservative icon



Today’s New York Times editorial page honors William F. Buckley Jr. who died yesterday at the age of 82:

There are not many issues on which Mr. Buckley and this page agreed or would agree – except, perhaps, the war in Iraq, which Mr. Buckley regretted as “unrealistic”and “anything but conservative.” Yet despite his uncompromising beliefs, Mr. Buckley was firmly committed to civil discourse and showed little appetite for the shrillness that plagues far too much of today’s political discourse.

For a time back in the 1960s and ’70s, Mr. Buckley and the liberal columnist Murray Kempton were something of a traveling road show. And they were friends. Yale’s angry young man turned out to be not so angry after all. He hated most of what the liberals stood for. He didn’t hate them.

He didn’t hate them.



There’s baby, then there’s bathwater



I’m reading the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, recommended to me by my conservative friend Lea. The book talks about “Level 5 leadership” being one of the required conditions for a company to achieve greatness.

Level 5 leadership isn’t at all what you’d expect it to be. Level 5 leaders are humble, a little awkward when it comes to slick media sound bites. But behind the scene, they demonstrate single-minded determination to achieve solid results. Once exceptional results are achieved, they tend to be leaders who give credit to their employees or even luck. They build things that are solid, that last. They’re the best of what American capitalism offers. They’re kind of American like apple pie.

According to Collins:

The recent spate of boards enamored with charismatic CEO’s especially rock star celebrity types is one of the most damaging trends for the long term health of companies and if this trend persists – if we see a triumph of celebrity over leadership and we maintain our misguided mix-up between those two concepts – we will see very few great institutions the next century.

It occurred to me as I read this passage that this zillionaire show-off CEO is substantially part of the picture I think many liberals have in their brain when they think of big business. They notice what’s wrong with big business, not what’s right with it… not the “Level 5 leadership” that’s out there and does capitalism proud. Slick zillionaire leader boy (or girl) isn’t good for anyone, if you follow Collins thinking; not for America, not for capitalism, not even for their company. This person is a distortion, an aberration, an example of the excess that tends to always create trouble (in River City, that starts with “t” that rhymes with “p” that stands with pool).

That got me thinking that maybe liberals tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when they’re talking what’s wrong with big business. They develop a hostile tick about “big business.” And I’m thinking that conservatives tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater when they’re talking what’s wrong with government… “big government.”

All this baby throwing out when really the problem we all share isn’t either the business or the government but the excess that exists in both?

What would happen if liberals attended to the excess that exists in government and conservatives attended to the excess that exists in corporate America? What would happen if we demonstrated “Level 5 leadership”, reaching for greatness within our own general sphere of influence? Where might we be then?



“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.”



A great quote from Doug Floyd via The Village Square’s very own purveyor of great quotes, Lea.

That’s all.



“…a president matters. And so do we.”



This week brought us a typical brain-dead political discussion about who did what in the civil rights movement. King! Johnson! King! Johnson!

Politics played to our lizard brains, replayed endlessly in incomplete soundbites on the 24-hour cable news do-loop station of your choice, repeatedly asks us to pick “either/or”.

But reality is nearly always about “and.”

As a tribute to the Reverend Martin Luther King today, I want to share Bill Moyers nailing that concept.

As this day ends, the day we set aside to honor Dr. King, if I don’t miss my bet, he would have been all about sharing credit with President Johnson… possibly with one or two others…

Here’s to what real leadership is all about.

Moyers on the signing of the 1965 Civil Right Act:

Martin Luther King had marched and preached and witnessed for this day. Countless ordinary people had put their bodies on the line for it; been berated, bullied and beaten, only to rise and organize and struggle on against the dogs, the guns, the bias and burning crosses. Take nothing from them. Their courage is their legacy.

But take nothing from the President who once had seen the light, but dimly, as through a dark glass and now did the right thing. Lyndon Johnson threw the full weight of his office on the side of justice.

Of course the movement had come first, watered by the blood of so many championed bravely now by the preacher-turned-prophet who would himself soon be martyred. But there is no inevitability to history. Someone has to seize and turn it. With these words, at the right moment – “We shall overcome” – Lyndon Johnson transcended race and color – and history too – reminding us that a president matters.

And so do we.



America, go to your room.



No matter your candidate in ’04, no matter your candidate in ’08, no matter your party, this isn’t good news: ugly South Carolina political tricks are baaaccck… This time with this piece of high-minded political discourse targeting Senator John McCain from a group calling themselves “Vietnam Veterans against McCain.

Last spin through South Carolina for the Senator, pro-Bush groups conducted push-polls asking voters how they would feel if they knew McCain had fathered a black child out of wedlock. Truth? The Senator and his wife adopted an Indian ORPHAN from MOTHER THERESA’S ORPHANAGE, no less.

Then there is this smear against Mitt Romney a “mailer in heavily evangelical South Carolina, purporting to be a holiday card paid for by the Mormon Temple in Boston, wishing fond holiday wishes from the Romney family,” beginning with this sentence: “We have now clearly shown that God the father had a plurality of wives…” The FBI is investigating, though a lot of good it will do candidate Romney as a postscript months down the road.

Then there is this anti-Romney mailing out to Florida voters:

“Help me sound the alarm that one day the Mormon Church plans to replace the Constitution with a Mormon theocracy. Mitt Romney’s political success indicates this may be sooner than most have thought…”

Then there is email, this breathless Obama as undercover radical Muslim screed that’s been arriving in in-boxes for months. One version even mentions that email fact-checker www.snopes.com had verified the story when it had, in fact, done the exact opposite.

And, now, a Village Square pop-quiz. Referencing our last post, do you suppose these tactics target our:

    1. Human brain
    2. Lizard brain
    3. Our inner second-grader?



Hint: My apologies to second graders for impugning their intelligence.