Friday, March 11, 2005

Good Riddance, Michael Powell

'It saddens me when public officials and bureaucrats are criticized for ulterior motives, none of which I have ever found in a government bureaucrat, or when someone personalizes disagreements. This country needs to disagree civilly and continue to recommit itself to the welfare of its citizens -- which is all we are sent here to do.'
FCC Chairman Powell, on stepping down

Sorry that poor Mike P. felt the personal sting from millions of Americans who cared about the diversity of media voices as a crucial bedrock of democracy, and who didn't take kindly to anyone trying to fool with it. After only Reagan-era FCC Chairman Mark Fowler, who famously called television nothing more than a toaster with pictures, this numbskull ideologue did more than any FCC chairman in history to attempt to hand over the control of American media policy to a few large companies. And Americans rightly take that seriously, and they took it personally. If that continues to sting for him, that's all to the good, I would say. But don't feel too bad for Mike. There will always be a cushy sinecure for him somewhere as a telecom industry lobbyist, or with a right-wing think tank, where his brand of intellectual dishonesty will fit right in with the decor and the chatter around the water cooler. It's just good that he's no longer in a position to do really large and lasting damage to the country. Then again, do you expect that his replacement will be much better?

Actually, on another level, I suppose I almost feel sorry for this guy. As the son of a famous dad and a certified heroic American, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Michael seems to have had trouble finding his own place to shine. I have a theory about the sons of famous men, based on watching a few guys I have known who had fathers of outsized reputation: for many, they try so hard to break free of the orbit of their dads that they can often venture into trouble. Rather than following in their footsteps, and trying to live up to their reputation and high ethical example, these tormented sons can tend to try too hard to diverge down different paths, often to their detriment. I think that's been the case for our weasly president, whose dad, while not the most effective president in U.S. history, was nevetheless a completely honorable man, who mostly tried to do the right thing over his long career. His son, like the recent FCC chairman, seems to have devoted so much energy to trying to break free of the old man's reputational gravity, that he has mostly flown off course and out into another galaxy.


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