You don’t know enough to question me

Watching this video made my blood boil all over again from 8 years of the Bush administration. It reminded me that this kind of thinking isn’t gone at all. It just exited stage left, and will reappear…. The video is from a few days ago, of Condoleeza Rice being questioned about torture – unexpectedly – by students after a speaking gig.

One of the things that I see is her willingness to wield information to deny questions. She uses her intelligence, experience, and access to information to try and make the questioner feel stupid. She doesn’t have to answer questions, because somehow the questioner doesn’t know enough to ask the question. That’s what Bush did a lot of, cause we let him. Dr. Rice gets angry and begins asking questions herself. As if, because he doesn’t know something, why should she explain anything to him?


What we saw with the last administration was the arrogant sense of “you don’t know enough to know anything…. You can’t question me cause you don’t know all the information, and I can’t share any of the information with you.”  8 years of people in power telling us we don’t know enough to ask questions, and that for our own best interest: just back off. If we don’t get the lesson learned, it will return. 

Information is used by those in power to make people feel stupid. Of course, they have access to the best information, they see it in a constant stream. That does not mean that questions are invalid.

At whatever level of public office, in a democracy, there is a need for a reasonable (not complete) level of transparency and communication. Not on every issue, or every decision, or every conversation. But on the issues and conversations that most impact constituents. And the constituents get to decide what issues they care about. Not the government.

To wit: I don’t care if Fenty is too busy governing to explain what’s happened with baseball tickets. He doesn’t get to decide everything that he is too busy to deal with. I’m not saying Fenty is anything like Bush. We all have our personal buttons, and this is one of Fenty’s… but he’s better than that. So they oppose(d) the stadium. Let history judge.

In a democracy, all leadership is temporary. There is an inefficiency there. You’re never gonna get it all done. But as part of a process, government leaders do well more than make laws. They are models for behavior.

Government leaders play a role in the evolution of our civilization. If leaders can only lead behind closed doors, in secret, then they never really were leaders. Just people holding power. You can distinguish between the two this way: the people who are just holding power have a particular reticence to truly share the information and power that their position gives them necessarily exclusive access to.

To take it one step too far: our leaders encourage us to play ball with them, even when they  don’t want to play with us.

{image stolen from DCist… image of the day April 30, 2009.}