Thursday, February 10, 2005

The vigilant maintenance of perspective

I have two sick kids today. All right, to be fair only the three-year-old is truly sick, but the baby is getting over the same illness (as am I), and altogether There Is No Joy In Mudville. Seems to be standard-issue flu with fever, congestion, headache, body aches, but there's a lovely stomach component that is, not to put too fine a point on it, approximately doubling my laundry chores. I should note too that my husband is out of town until (handily enough for him) after bedtime tonight, then leaves again tomorrow for a long day trip.

I was trying to get one of the endless loads of laundry folded and put away as the three-year-old was sitting on the sofa whimpering and the baby was making cat food soup (as we call it when he dumps all the cat's dry food into the water dish and plays in the result) a few feet from me, and I could feel resentment bubbling up and threatening to overflow like a pot of rice left on high (I did that just last week so I know). I heard myself muttering, "Daddy owes me a whole day this weekend." My laundry-folding motions grew larger yet more precise, angry basically, and then -

- it came to me that neither of my kids was going to die from this bug, that I had a washer and dryer to take most of the work out of my work, that I have a freezer and a pantry full of food and cookbooks geared toward turning it into good meals in minimum time, that Steve's going to volunteer to give me the "day off" on Saturday before I even get a chance to ask for it. So I did my best. I took a deep breath and said a quick "Thanks" to the One I like to thank for things, for sending me the dose of perspective I'd been lacking. It didn't entirely quell the resentment, but it did turn the heat down to a more appropriate simmer.

And because I purport to write about matters political herein, let me assure you there's a link. Yesterday, Brit Hume (Fox News) misinterpreted an FDR quote, in defense of personal retirement accounts. You can read the story at Media Matters, which I came to via a favorite blog, Asymmetrical Information, which in its turn directed me to Al Franken's blog at the Air America website ( - a dead link you'll have to copy and paste into your URL window, because I don't want to give the man business unnecessarily), in which Al called for Hume's immediate resignation. Commenters to Al's blog thread likened the error (If Error It Was) to Dan Rather's rush to get the Bush National Guard memo forgeries on the air, followed by his and CBS's insistence that they were not forgeries, followed by his acknowledgement that they might be forged but they were accurate anyway.

Hume's egregious error was to imply (some would say "to state" - it was a one-liner in a TV dialog; I have to go with "to imply") that FDR wanted private retirement annuities to "supplant" (Hume's word) the government-funded program he envisioned as Social Security. The original source material indicates that FDR saw three phases of Social Security: an old-age pension, half federally-funded and half state-funded, to support those who didn't have enough time before retirement to pay into the system; a compulsory annuity; and a voluntary annuity for those who could afford to contribute to it and wanted to supplement their retirement income. He further stated that he expected the entire system to become self-supporting over time.

So, question: did Hume simply misspeak, saying "supplant" when he meant "supplement"? I haven't read a transcript of the entire program yet - I'll update when I do. But even if he indeed meant what he said and knew that he was to some extent mischaracterizing FDR's vision, is it equivalent to Rather's actions? What could each man expect, or hope, the results of his actions to be? Hume: one line, attempting to draw support for Bush's retirement accounts by adopting the so-called "mantle of FDR" with at least some philosophical basis, to bring about an optimal outcome that Bush's SocSec strategery (I love to write that!) gains some popular support in states with Democratic senators, possibly breaking a filibuster. Rather: four memos, rushed to air in the run-up to a national election with - to say the least - inadequate fact-checking, that could have tipped the balance in the election by tarnishing the military record of a wartime president (who signed his Form 180, unlike his opponent) - followed by stonewalling and then an insistence that while the memos might be fake, he still believed them to be accurate - so that even if the memos weren't all they were cracked up to be, the outcome had a chance of being the same.

You be the judge.

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