Lecture met with protest
Andrew H. Card Jr., the former White House Chief of Staff, gave a lecture followed by a question-and-answer session yesterday at the University of Massachusetts in the Student Union Ballroom.
The first in a series called "Talking Politics," sponsored by the UMass Civic Initiative run by the Donahue Institute and the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Card's talk was entitled, "The American Political Landscape: Looking Towards 2008." Among his topics he stressed how important participation is in a democracy.
"If you don't show up, you can't complain about the results," said Card.
With a long history of politics rooted in his family, Card functioned as Chief of Staff under George W. Bush from 2000-2006, making him the second-longest serving Chief of Staff to the White House.
Card started off the talk with an emphasis on his early involvement in politics and his ties to his hometown, Holbrook, Mass. As protestors began to file into the ballroom, sitting in chairs with their backs turned to the podium and blocking their ears, and many with a variety of signs such as "LIES" or "Card=Criminal," Card transitioned to the 2008 elections and why this is a "very interesting period" in the political calendar.
"There are more candidates running for president than any other election that I can remember with the exception of 1980," said Card.
Card explained that this is the time in the political calendar where the United States has "faux presidents," where citizens look to candidates for leadership even though they are not in office. "What does it mean to have a leader who is not president…?" Card posed to the audience and especially to political science classes.
The success of candidates in the upcoming election, according to Card, will depend on hundreds of millions of dollars spent on television advertisements. He implied that immense spending is an unfortunate consequence of having so many candidates for president, and pertinent issues or those candidates without vast amounts of money may be lost in the fray.
He also stated that a democracy is "really a responsibility of participation." Speaking alone in a democracy "does not dictate a change," whereas participation can incite one. Card gave the example of New Hampshire, a favorite state of politicians, which possesses a participatory, grass-roots political nature and dedication to debating difficult issues such as taxes, war, and abortion.
Addressing a growing sense of skepticism and cynicism towards governmental processes was another main point in Card's lecture. Urging UMass students to refrain from being cynical and apathetic toward government he said, "Where is the line between cynicism and skepticism?
I'm glad I never crossed the line to cynicism, because, cynicism invites apathy in terms of participation. I plead with you not to become a cynic.
"What drives us to participate in politics?" asked Card. "Usually fear drives us more than love." However, he urged the audience to find issues and people they can support.
"Politicians always try to be love magnets…I don't know any politician who stood up and said 'hate me,'" he said.
Card emphasized the importance of the president and what the hardest part of the job is: being alone in your ideas, policies and intent to defend the constitution.
"So as you consider who the next president will be, please consider the job description," he said. Presidents are required to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution by an oath. "See which one of them [the candidates] has the courage to be lonely," he continued.
Card described the numerous times he had seen George W. Bush visit hospitals with wounded soldiers and bestow upon them the words, "On behalf of a grateful nation, thank you for your sacrifice," emphasizing the President's sympathy toward the soldiers and his lonely burden of being Commander in Chief.
Card closed his talk with his definition of citizenship.
"Citizenship is an obligation, it is a great privilege, it is an honor, but it is an obligation," he said.
As the audience posed questions to Card, student protestors forcibly shouted from the back of the ballroom, waved signs and carried mock, dead soldiers from the room. As they verbalized their distaste for the Bush administration, Card said, "Your passions are important, but they have to translate from rhetoric to participation." Although urged not to create questions over 30-seconds long and not to relate a speech, Justin Jackson, a graduate student in the UMass History department vehemently displayed his dislike of the Bush administration at the microphone and throughout the rest of the question-and-answer session.
One question focused on the difficulty the Republican Party faces in the next election to which Card stated, "A keen grasp of the obvious." The individual asked about common issues the Republicans could focus on, to which Card immediately listed the War in Iraq, social security, higher education, shifting demographics, the shrinking work force and public education.
Other questions addressed the possibility of clear-cut contenders for party nominations, the diversity of the Cabinet members in the Bush administration, translators in Baghdad being killed every day and those without the potential to become naturalized citizens, the compensation of veterans and the President's reaction to hearing the news of Sept. 11 in Sarasota, Fl.
April 12, 2007