Bill Moyers for President?
Molly Ivins and others are talking about Bill Moyers running for President. She talks of his candidacy as being a way of addressing moral issues, but as if it were doomed to failure — even failure to get the Democratic Party nomination. The article below from “The Nation” addresses this, and says that Moyers could be a viable candidate. Who knows? It appears that Bill Moyers has quashed discussion on the subject (go to http://billmoyersforpresident.org/). But stranger things have happened in American politics…
There are not many people of Moyers’s status and caliber in American politics these days. Scroll down to read “There is No Tomorrow.” In this January, 2005 article, he talks of the American political landscape littered with elected officials whose constituents “are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That is why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. That is why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act… For them a war with Islam in the Middle East is something to be welcomed – an essential conflagration on the road to redemption.” He talks about Karl Rove whistling “Onward, Christian Soldiers” in the hallways of the White House. And he asks the critical question, “What has happened to our moral imagination?”
Molly Ivins concludes her article by saying: To let Moyers know what you think of this idea, write him at P.O. Box 309, Bernardsville, NJ 07924. I have an envelope and a stamp, and plenty of free return address labels… I think I’ll write to him myself!
Bill Moyers for President? Absolutely!
John Nichols Tue July 25
The Nation — Molly Ivins is trying to get Democrats excited about the prospect of running Bill Moyers for president.
“Dear desperate Democrats,” the nation’s most widely-read liberal newspaper columnist begins her latest missive. “Here’s what we do: We run Bill Moyers for president. I am serious as a stroke about this. It’s simple, cheap, and effective, and it will move the entire spectrum of political discussion in this country. Moyers is the only public figure who can take the entire discussion and shove it toward moral clarity just by being there.”
Ivins makes a great case for why her fellow Texan ought to be on the ballot in 2008.
“Bill Moyers has been grappling with how to fit moral issues to political issues ever since he left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and went to work for Lyndon Johnson in the teeth of the Vietnam War,” she writes. “Moyers worked for years in television, seriously addressing the most difficult issues of our day. He has studied all different kinds of religions and different approaches to spirituality. He’s no Holy Joe, but he is a serious man. He opens minds–he doesn’t scare people. He includes people in, not out. And he sees through the dark search for a temporary political advantage to the clear ground of the Founders. He listens and he respects others.”
After making her case, however, Ivins adds what appears to be the “reality” section:
“Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me.”
Ivins wants Moyers to make a sympbolic run, with the purpose of shaking up the Democratic party, and perhaps the nation.
“It won’t take much money — file for him in a couple of early primaries and just get him into the debates,” the columnist explains. “Think about the potential Democratic candidates. Every single one of them needs spine, needs political courage. What Moyers can do is not only show them what it looks like and indeed what it is, but also how people respond to it. I’m damned if I want to go through another presidential primary with everyone trying to figure out who has the best chance to win instead of who’s right. I want to vote for somebody who’s good and brave and who should win.”
But why limit this quest?
Why ask Democratic primary voters to send a message when they can send the best man into the November competition and, if the stars align correctly, perhaps even to the White House?
With all due regard to one of the finest journalists and finest Americans I know, I respectfully disagree with Molly Ivins — not on the merits of a Moyers candidacy, but on the potential.
I’m not suggesting that Bill Moyers — with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working in recent years on media reform issues — is a sure bet to win the Democratic nomination or the presidency in 2008. I’m not even suggesting that he would be a good bet. But the politics of 2008 are already so muddled, so quirky and so potentially volatile that I believe — as someone who has covered my share of presidential campaigns — that Moyers could be a contender.
Moyers would enter the 2008 race with far more Washington political experience than Dwight Eisenhower had in 1952, far more national name recognition than Jimmy Carter had in 1976 and far more to offer the country than most of our recent chief executives.
Against the candidates who are lining up for the 2008 contest, Bill Moyers and his supporters would not need to make any excuses.
After all, the supposed Democratic frontrunner is a former First Lady who ran her first election campaign just six years ago. One of the leading Republican contenders is a guy whose main claim to fame is that he did a good job of running the Olympics in Salt Lake City, while another is still best known as the son of a famous football coach. And the strongest Republican prospect, John McCain, is actually more popular with Democrats than with his own partisans.
Consider the fact that a professional body builder is the governor of the largest state in the union, and that the list of serious contenders for seats in Congress and for governorships this year is packed with retired athletes, former television anchorpersons and bored millionaires, and it simply is not that big a stretch to suggest that someone with the government and private-sector experience, the national recognition and the broad respect that Bill Moyers has attained across five decades of public life could not make a serious run for the presidency.
So, Molly, I’ll see your suggestion of Bill Moyers, and up the ante to suggest that Moyers really could be a contender.
Copyright © 2006 The Nation
There Is No Tomorrow
By Bill Moyers
The Star TribuneSunday 30 January 2005
One of the biggest changes in politics in my lifetime is that the delusional is no longer marginal. It has come in from the fringe, to sit in the seat of power in the Oval Office and in Congress.
For the first time in our history, ideology and theology hold a monopoly of power in Washington. Theology asserts propositions that cannot be proven true; ideologues hold stoutly to a worldview despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality. The offspring of ideology and theology are not always bad but they are always blind. And that is the danger: voters and politicians alike, oblivious to the facts.
One-third of the American electorate, if a recent Gallup Poll is accurate, believes the Bible is literally true. This past November, several million good and decent citizens went to the polls believing in what is known as the “rapture index.”
These true believers subscribe to a fantastical theology concocted in the 19th century by a couple of immigrant preachers who took disparate passages from the Bible and wove them into a narrative that has captivated the imagination of millions of Americans. Its outline is rather simple, if bizarre: Once Israel has occupied the rest of its “biblical lands,” legions of the Antichrist will attack it, triggering a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. As the Jews who have not been converted are burned, the messiah will return for the rapture. True believers will be lifted out of their clothes and transported to heaven, where, seated next to the right hand of God, they will watch their political and religious opponents suffer plagues of boils, sores, locusts and frogs during the several years of tribulation that follow.
I’ve reported on these people, following some of them from Texas to the West Bank. They are sincere, serious and polite as they tell you they feel called to help bring the rapture on as fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That is why they have declared solidarity with Israel and the Jewish settlements and backed up their support with money and volunteers. That is why the invasion of Iraq for them was a warm-up act, predicted in the Book of Revelation, where four angels “which are bound in the great river Euphrates will be released to slay the third part of man.” For them a war with Islam in the Middle East is something to be welcomed – an essential conflagration on the road to redemption. The rapture index – “the prophetic speedometer of end-time activity” – now stands at 153.
So what does this mean for public policy and the environment? As Glenn Scherer reports in the online environmental journal Grist, millions of Christian fundamentalists believe that environmental destruction is not only to be disregarded but hastened as a sign of the coming apocalypse.
We’re not talking about a handful of fringe lawmakers who hold or are beholden to these beliefs. Nearly half of the members of Congress are backed by the religious right. Forty-five senators and 186 members of the 108th Congress earned 80 to 100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian-right advocacy groups. They include Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Assistant Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Conference Chair Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, Policy Chair Jon Kyl of Arizona, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Majority Whip Roy Blunt. The only Democrat to score 100 percent with the Christian Coalition was Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia, who before his recent retirement quoted from the biblical Book of Amos on the Senate floor: “The days will come, sayeth the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land.” He seemed to relish the thought.
Onward Christian Soldiers
And why not? There’s a constituency for it. A 2002 Time/CNN poll found that 59 percent of Americans believe that the prophecies found in the Book of Revelation are going to come true. Tune in to any of the more than 1,600 Christian radio stations or flip on one of the 250 Christian TV stations across the country and you can hear some of this end-time gospel. And you will come to understand why people under the spell of such potent prophecies cannot be expected, as Grist puts it, “to worry about the environment. Why care about the earth when the droughts, floods, famine and pestilence brought by ecological collapse are signs of the apocalypse foretold in the Bible?”
These people believe that until Christ does return, the Lord will provide. One of their texts is a high school history book, America’s Providential History, which contains the following: “The secular or socialist has a limited resource mentality and views the world as a pie … that needs to be cut up so everyone can get a piece.” However, “the Christian knows that the potential in God is unlimited and that there is no shortage of resources in God’s earth … while many secularists view the world as overpopulated, Christians know that God has made the earth sufficiently large with plenty of resources to accommodate all of the people.” No wonder Karl Rove goes around the White House whistling that militant hymn, “Onward Christian Soldiers.” He turned out millions of the foot soldiers in this past election, including many who have made the apocalypse a powerful driving force in modern American politics.
Once upon a time I thought that people would protect the natural environment when they realized its importance to their health and to the health and lives of their children. Now I am not so sure. It’s not that I don’t want to believe that – it’s just that I read the news and connect the dots.
Mike Leavitt, the former administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, declared the election a mandate for President Bush on the environment – a mandate for an administration that wants to rewrite the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act, as well as the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires the government to judge beforehand if actions might damage natural resources.
The Environmental Protection Agency had even planned to spend $9 million – $2 million of it from the administration’s friends at the American Chemistry Council – to pay poor families to continue to use pesticides in their homes. These pesticides have been linked to neurological damage in children, but instead of ordering an end to their use, the government and the industry were going to offer the families $970 each, as well as a camcorder and children’s clothing, to serve as guinea pigs for the study.
I read all this and then look at the pictures on my desk, next to the computer – pictures of my grandchildren: Henry, age 12; Thomas, age 10; Nancy, 7; Jassie, 3; Sara Jane, nine months. I see the future looking back at me from those photographs and I say, “Father, forgive us, for we know not what we do.” And then I am stopped short by the thought: “That’s not right. We do know what we are doing. We are stealing their future. Betraying their trust. Despoiling their world.”
And I ask myself: “Why? Is it because we don’t care? Because we are greedy? Because we have lost our capacity for outrage, our ability to sustain indignation at injustice?”
What has happened to our moral imagination?
The news is not good these days. I can tell you that as a journalist I know the news is never the end of the story. The news can be the truth that sets us free – free to fight for the future we want. And the will to fight is the antidote to despair, the cure for cynicism, and the answer to those faces looking back at me from those photographs on my desk.
What we need is what the ancient Israelites called “hocma” – the science of the heart, the capacity to see, to feel and then to act as if the future depended on you. Believe me, it does
Bill Moyers was host until recently of the weekly public affairs series “NOW with Bill Moyers” on PBS. This article is adapted from AlterNet, where it first appeared. The text is taken from Moyers’ remarks upon receiving the Global Environmental Citizen Award from the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School.