Speaking Truth to Power

I couldn’t resist Gerard Baker’s take on the recent political theatre in Washington DC. He seems to me to have got a lot of it pretty much right. Here are the best bits from his sketch in the Times.

In the red corner US Senators:

The Senate describes itself, without apparent irony or hint of self-awareness, as the world’s greatest deliberative body. Wherever they travel, senators are treated with a sort of scented deference that only a republic could confer on its leaders and not risk revolution. Fawning staffers strew petals in their path; highways are made straight for them; rivers are forded lest they get their feet wet. One observer noted that senators take themselves so seriously that “they’d wear togas if they thought they could get away with it.”

In the blue corner a British MP:

As I watched, it wasn’t a grudging respect for the perfectly tailored and coiffed tribune of the masses that filled me, but a wave of nausea. His testimony left me with a renewed understanding of just how uniquely repellent Mr Galloway is.

On how the scene was set for the fun and games:

When mortals appear before Senate panels, they are expected to show proper deference to these lawgivers of the American republic. But while senators may consider themselves Solons, Pericles they most assuredly are not. Going through life in an impregnable carapace of sycophancy is agreeable, no doubt, but as Marie Antoinette discovered, it does not tend to sharpen one’s skills in public argument. So when a feisty member such as Mr Galloway shows up in the midst of these august figures, the effect is a little like a character from a Damon Runyon novel let loose among the Gatsbys.

And here are his thoughts on speaking truth to power:

Yet as he railed against the senators, I couldn’t get out of my head that spectacle of the same man smiling as he lauded Saddam Hussein. As he exploited the fustiness of the surroundings and the plodding lawyerliness of his interlocutors, I couldn’t help but remember how, in the face of a different sort of power, he had saluted its indefatigability and promised to march on to Jerusalem.

I also wondered what his and our life might have been like if he had deployed some of his little-man courage before Saddam; standing up for some of those other hundreds of thousands of other good Muslims — Iraqis, who could have done with a persuasive advocate there and then.

My sympathies are with those men, women and children who died because of Saddam’s indefatigable affection for torture and murder; with those who today are suffering still because of his successors’ indefatigable affection for the suicide bomb in the marketplace or at the mosque.

It is the tragic but hopeful people of Iraq who have shown us how to defy power and misery, and who, if we stand firm against the Galloways of this world, will one day get the Respect they truly deserve.