The Week

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 5/3/02 5:00am

A Rhetorized Mentality

Ehud Barak spoke in Spaulding Auditorium Wednesday, urging America to join in Israel's war on terror. America's help is critical, he said, if Israel is to remain an "outpost of democracy" in the Middle East.

As it reflects Israel's foreign policy, Barak's speech was a clever political move for Israel. By adopting the Bush administration's phrases and buzzwords of justification for a war on terror, Barak makes it difficult for the United States to criticize Israel without appearing hypocritical.

Suicide bombers are clearly terrorists. It is unacceptable, however, to apply the label of "terror" to every Palestinian resistance effort. By doing so, the United States and Israel place themselves in the ethical quagmire of dehumanizing the Palestinians through language and, as a result, making their deaths more palatable.

Fostering Campaign Discourse

Overeager supporters of student government candidates Julia Hildreth '05 and Dan Chang '03 committed separate violations of election guidelines on Wednesday, and in doing so, they exposed inadequacies in the Elections Planning and Advisory Committee regulations.

Chang and Vinny Ng '03 were cited by EPAC for an endorsement made by Michael Paul '03 in a Weekend Update email that broke a rule stating that "people cannot send out mass blitzes to people they do not know." Given that candidates put up countless posters for the benefit of all students, this constraint on the electronic equivalent is arbitrary. The ambiguity of the rule is another problem -- what constitutes "knowing" someone?

Ambiguity also troubles a negative-campaigning rule that came to the fore when Hildreth supporter Lucas Nikkel '05 distributed an email criticizing vice-presidential candidate Stephanie Bonan '03. The slanderous tone of Nikkel's message was inappropriate, but the EPAC citation said simply that "the message was negative." There is a place for regulations governing personal or falsified attacks. A blanket condemnation of negative messages, however, suggests that candidates are unable to criticize each other's platforms in a public forum, artificially restricting the level of discourse in campaigns.

The most critical flaw in these regulations is their needless repression of activity that could increase interest in elections. If student government wants the campus to listen, it needs to let its candidates speak.

A Lack of Direction

After President Bush proposed changing the rate structure of the student loan consolidation program, the administration was forced to withdraw its plan following intense criticism. The defeated initiative would have saved the government an estimated $1.3 billion, but only by increasing the amount students receiving loans pay out of their own pocket. Bush's misstep on this and other higher education issues -- such as his controversial plan to restrict international students' fields of study -- reveal the president's lack of direction in this area.

Although the war on terror and the ailing economy necessitate cost cutting, reducing higher education spending is not an acceptable way to address these budgetary needs. For a president who ran under the slogan "No child left behind," increasing financial barriers to higher education is hypocritical.

In confronting Sept. 11, President Bush acquired an image as a decisive leader, but such a sense of direction is not evident in other arenas. To be an effective leader, President Bush has to re-evaluate his priorities and approach policymaking decisions with a thorough understanding of the issues.