Matthews: Remember past lessons

Updated

Let me finish tonight with this: The country has begun to make a decision about who they want to lead it and how and where they want it to be led.

It’s a serious mistake - for voter as well politician or journalist - to assume that the election of 2012 will be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of next year. People begin making their decisions - many make it for good - long before they walk ballot in hand into the polling booth. 

This is the time I sense people are beginning to make their decision on the presidency.  I have a simple warning. Recall what Yogi Berra once said about the driver who yelled out: we’re lost but we’re making good time.  Recall what Hemingway said to Ava Gardner about not confusing action with motion.

We should decide where we want to be led before we decide on who we want as a leader. I say this because we have made mistakes before. George W. Bush was president for a number of reasons, none having to do with what he ended up doing. He teased us with a promise - to exercise humility in the American role in world affairs. He teased us with being the guy who seemed more informal, less taken with the trappings of power - or of the ivory tower.

Do you recall what we got from “W” once he took office?  Instead of humility we got a neo-conservative agenda of fighting wars on foreign lands against a country - Iraq - who had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11, nothing to do with attacking us. 

We got an ideology in the White House of intellectuals bent on pushing a hard-right philosophy that cost us the lives of thousands of Americans, tens of thousands of Arabs, and took us deeper into the quicksand of Mideast politics and tribal hatreds. 

“W” did that, a guy who promised “humility” in foreign policy, who promised to be the very antithesis of a president who would buy into some hare-brained intellectualism that had our troops ranging around Mesopotamia rooting out “Baathists” in some ideological cleansing operation that we Americans have no more competence to carry out than we have a national interest to be involved.

So as we begin choosing our president this time around, it’s good to remember the lessons of before. Before you go rejecting one alternative for the other, consider what your new favorite is really all about. Does he believe what you do about the role of government in American life?  Does he believe what you do about the role of America in the world? Because while you can ignore this pair of mighty questions now; you won’t able to ignore them once we have a new president.

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Matthews: Remember past lessons

Updated