Marginal Footnotes

Budapest, Violence and Political Honesty
September 26, 2006, 5:07 pm
Filed under: International, Politics, Travel, Uncategorized

A few months ago I traveled to Budapest and found it to be one of the most interesting cities I’ve ever visited. I am not, by any means, an accomplished globetrotter, but I’ve been here and there and I was particularly struck by the Old World beauty of the rundown, economically stuggling two cities divided by the Danube. There is something about the Chain Bridge that approximates aesthetic perfection.

So it’s too bad about the international renown Budapest is attaining for the recent outbreak of violent social protest there due to its president’s highly frank remarks about the state of the national economy and the dispensation of the city’s political leadership (“we lied, morning, noon, and night”). Certainly, the city is not unaccustomed to such unrest, and its tricky history (with the Soviets, with the Nazis) suggests that it has the fortitude to emerge from the current crisis with class and resilience.

Ann Applebaum, one of the best columnists in the nation and who knows a thing or two about this part of the world, takes a fascinating look today in Slate. She uses the occasion of leaked truth-telling in Hungary as an opportunity to circle back to our present crisis in America (and the one we’ve created in Iraq). Applebaum laments, compellingly, the structural dishonesty that defines the modern-day political apparatus, without which no political agent can survive. 

But this argument is ultimately flawed, because it is based on the idealistic principle that if only we allowed our politicians to admit mistakes we would be able to correct and prevent future, eggregiously erroneous courses of action. But this depends on the initial mistake being honest, and the evidence now is overwhelming that the Bush administration pretty much deliberately screwed the pooch on the Iraq war, intentionally cooked the books, hyped the threat, misled at will, cherry picked, etc. ad nauseam. And Applebaum’s argument also rests, at least in part, on the notion that we should not punish politicians for making mistakes, even if those mistakes were made in good faith. But why not. Elections are about responsibility. And I don’t think violence, such as that occuring in Hungary now, would be the immediate reaction of the American public. There would be anger and resentment, and then there would be decisions in ballot boxes.


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3 Comments so far
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