With the US presidential election scheduled for 8 November, I delved into some quotes from past US elite. I have picked three. I will deal with the recent local shocking “baħnan” comment in a while.
Barbara Bush, wife of George HW Bush and mother of George W Bush, appeared on Good Morning America in 2003 to discuss the consequences of the US war with Iraq. When asked about how much television she’d been watching, the former first lady replied “none…why should we hear about body bags and deaths…? It is not relevant. So why should I waste my beautiful mind on something like that?” These comments – shocking enough as they were – couldn’t have come at a worse time, as she made them just as the Bush administration was making the decision to ban news coverage of dead soldiers’ homecomings. That aside, it’s a shame the former first lady’s beautiful mind couldn’t take the time to hear about body bags and deaths – especially considering that both her husband and her son were largely responsible for those dead bodies in the bags.
Henry Kissinger received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam. He was Secretary of State under both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, and National Security Advisor. It is this short CV that makes the following quote shocking. During an argument with General Alexander Haig, Chief of Staff under President Nixon, Kissinger reportedly stated that “Military men are just dumb stupid animals, to be used as pawns in foreign policy.” Now these words are awful enough as they are, but the fact they were said by someone who had significant influence over the US military and foreign policy makes them even worse.
I trust you too find these quotes shocking.
However, the quote from Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the US is a ray of light and an eye-opener. During his speech at the Progressive Covenant with the People in 1912, Roosevelt stated that “Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people.” Governments the world over aren’t just swayed by the demands of the people, but also by large corporations and the privileged few who roam the corridors of power. Politicians tend to prioritise power and profit over the needs of their citizens.
Theodore Roosevelt was spot on. This sounds familiar in the current local context.
Now let me come to the “baħnan” comment.
In the mega stage-managed press conference in front of the Auberge de Castille, Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat – flanked by Mr Louis Grech, Deputy Prime Minister and Prof Edward Scicluna, Minister for Finance – saw fit to label the Leader of the Opposition “baħnan”. The wellgroomed and dressed-for-theoccasion sitting behind the Prime Minister laughed it off, others murmured comments to the person next to them while others remained silent, perhaps baffled by the PM’s comment.
To make matters worse, hours later the Prime Minister denied calling Dr Busuttil “baħnan”, despite video evidence to the contrary. Indeed, everybody is susceptible to making mistakes.
Public figures have to exercise a lot of caution when they speak.
People in public life are trained not to react instantaneously. The Prime Minister, a seasoned media person, is no newcomer on the national stage and could have easily brushed aside any question he didn’t want to answer during a planned press conference intended to portray the benefits of the 2017 Budget. However, he purposely opted to retort with a disparaging comment.
One can hardly believe it was a slip of the tongue.
It was highly inappropriate of the PM to call the Leader of the Opposition “baħnan”. No wonder many have lost their sense of respect towards any form of authority. If the PM can call the Leader of the Opposition “baħnan”, then why can’t we call a police officer, a teacher, a medical practitioner, a judge or a cleric, or anyone else for that matter, with similar disparaging remarks?
Shoes were thought to bring good luck. This myth relates to the Middle Ages when footwear was expensive and the common practice was to bequeath your footwear to members of the family. Unless you use slip-ons, every now and then a shoelace is bound to break. Superstition has it that a broken shoelace is thought to be bad luck. And perhaps, this is what it was this time. After all the hype and positive economic figures thrown at us, our expectations were high. Yet it seems the shoe laces broke. The middle class got nothing and the vulnerable very little. Tough luck!
The Malta Independent Tuesday 25 October 2016