chapter  2
Toward Unprincipled Public Service: Critical Ideology, the Fetish of Capitalism, and Some Thoughts on the Future of Governance
Pages 14

Not so long ago, Bill Clinton’s apparently self-serving use of language drew widespread public expressions of outrage and ridicule. He had not actually had “sexual relations with that woman” according to his defi nition and, as he later solemnly swore in grand jury testimony, the issue of whether he had lied under oath actually hinged upon what “the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” It was largely on the basis of such language gaming that Clinton came to be described as America’s fi rst postmodern president; as a leader whose lack of principles permitted him to behave in virtually any way he wished. Yet Clinton was not the last American president to play such games or, at least arguably, to deserve such a description. Despite repeated appeals to principle, such as in his recent insistence that “you can’t be the President unless you have a fi rm set of principles to guide you” George W. Bush (2007, ¶ 41) has sought to justify a number of highly controversial policies associated with his War on Terror precisely by shading the defi nition of such terms as “torture,” “prisoner or war,” and “terrorist” to suit his purposes.