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Bush speechwriter delivers lecture

Irena Zajickova | Thursday, October 30, 2008

Michael Gerson, former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, delivered the inaugural McCullough Lecture in Responsible Journalism and Government Wednesday. Gerson spoke in the McKenna auditorium to a crowd of about fifty people.

Gerson wrote two inaugural addresses, several State of the Union addresses and many important post-9/11 speeches during his time working for President Bush. In addition to writing speeches, he served as a White House policy advisor on global health, development and genocide.

Gerson’s lecture concerned the changing political landscape. He emphasized three main aspects that are causing a shift in the political nature of the United States.

The first factor is the economic decline of mainstream media, which has led to a major change in the nature of news, he said. The rise of Internet media, according to Gerson, has facilitated a culture of exclusion, encouraging those who do not agree with an idea to remain silent rather than challenge it.

“Americans can now if they choose live in an ideological universe of their own choosing, and view everyone outside that universe as idiots, as fools,” said Gerson.

Gerson admitted that the mainstream media could also be corrupt, even hypocritical. But hypocrisy cannot exist without standards, he said. Without a mainstream media and journalists devoted to exposing the truth, Americans are left with a news media where anger rules, he said.

The second factor is a lack of liberalism in politics, he said. The last two presidents worked to change their respective parties, Gerson said. There is none of that in today’s election and both parties are running empty campaigns, he said. Gerson said that Obama is naturally talented in the art of politics, but that he has not made any moves to innovate his policies.

A lack of any sort of moderate policy agenda will empower the Democrat-led Congress, leading to backlash from conservatives, he said.

“Obama is a strong, able man,” Gerson said. “But it may take a strong president with a developed and centrist ideology to shape and defy a democratic Congress.”

The third factor relates to conservatism, he said. Gerson said the party is lost, exhausted, and preparing for fratricide. Unless Republicans change their tactics and apply creative, free-market ideas to human problems, they will never succeed, he said. Reform is the key idea in improving the conservative party, he said.

Gerson said that McCain has been such a reformer. In the past, he was willing to oppose his own party. However, he is also running an empty campaign now. He has made no announcement of any kind of reform, he said.

“Candidates need to decide if they want to provide a message for the masses or be in business for themselves.”

Gerson also asked why the winner of this year’s election would even want the presidency. The three factors will certainly complicate the office. There will likely be a recession, along with a host of other problems. However, he said with a new leader comes new optimism.

“A new presidency is a chance for a new beginning,” Gerson said. “It is one of the best things about this country.”