Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner in Washington in April 2006:
“Let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell-check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know — fiction.”
The unsung heroes of Iraq war coverage | Salon
Greg Mitchell, the author of the article from which the above has been taken. has written a book: So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits — and the President — Failed on Iraq
This is a sort of a theological segway for me, since most arguments about the Iraq war are grounded in moralities that seem to appeal to a “middle axiom” which Yoder discusses in his book I’ve been reading: The Christian Witness to the State, which refers to the language with which the church might use to appeal to state leaders who do not (and often cannot) understand calls to higher morality within Christian understandings.
This leads the Christian to therefore speak to the state knowing that these appeals are “never been based on a theory about what the state is” (Yoder p.77) setting up, as a result, a somewhat nuanced “calling to consistency to laws and guides” while avoiding “grounding the appeal in secular state dogma” (the last two quoted phrases being my wording and not Yoder’s)
ie. contrast the above with “we can call on the state to respect its own constitution without assuming that constitution to be better than another” (Yoder p.77)
This is the area where , for me, Obama ventures far into the secular ideologies camp, speaking in “American pietistic terms” of the “founding fathers” and how “religion needs to be disciplined by democracy”. Reading from Yoder on the issues above has surprised me somewhat (although I still have a chapter to go, where I expect he will further clarify what his major emphasis and thesis will be), since I have gotten the distinct impression from people such as Hauerwas and JKA Smith that “middle axioms” are frowned upon by the “Radically Orthodox”. I probably need to go back to Hauerwas to review whether he explores Yoder’s writings concerning “middle axioms” and what he has to say there.
I approach this subject here because of how I started this post: calling attention to the failure of the media to appeal to any sense of “a commonly held” sense of truth telling and public honesty expected from either media or state. To call a state and its communication channels to some minimum standard of accountability seems to be close to this idea of the importance of “middle axioms”. This is where things can get muddy and generate a lot of philosophical and political and theological argument.
I think I would agree with Yoder here, to a point. I would agree that it is probably a good thing to appeal them to follow their own laws, because they will usually be put in place for good reasons and it will often be the case that they can’t follow their own laws. But my clarification comes in where they start making their own laws to get out of obeying the old ones, or making up laws that allow them to get away with whatever they want through intended loopholes, etc. In other words, to appeal to the state’s own laws as a fall back presupposes that the state is already virtuous or something, and I don’t think that sounds right, especially in the time that has passed since Yoder wrote that book (or even since he passed away, sheesh).
On the other hand, if I were to appeal to Bush personally, I would appeal to his membership in the Methodist church first.