You are doing the impossible. Your campaign is making my old nemesis, Ronald Reagan, look good.
The old school of Republicans did not politicize tragedy like you have. They did not hold press conferences to denounce their opponents’ Administrations like you have done recently in regards to the tragedy in Libya.
Ronald Reagan did not use the Iran Hostage Crisis to attack President Carter the way that you have gone after President Obama.
Reagan told lies but not as shamelessly as you have. And when called upon their lies, they did not blame the imaginary “liberal media” for reporting them.
What is with your complaint about Candy Crowley? She upheld President Obama’s assertion that he called the Libyan tragedy an “act of terrorism” the day after it happened. You made a specific allegation about Obama and it was wrong. Fess up and quit whining!
Republicans like you do not apologize. It is not that you are without fault, but that you believe you have impunity.
How does one obtain impunity?
When one knows that a significant group of people has their back. Complaints about media bias would go nowhere unless someone amplified it.
How does a message get amplified?
Through a medium of communication. Also known collectively as the media.
Turn on the talk radio stations. You will hear the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and many others who spin the conservative/New Republican line about media “bias.”
Go to the Internet. There are plenty of web sites with this same take on the media.
Look at the newspapers. Most editorial boards endorse the GOP candidate for president.
Most people are not getting information from people like Candy Crowley. You just didn’t like getting called out in front of millions of people who watched the debate.
You just don’t like it when someone disagrees with you. So take your own media, free of critical thought, and enjoy it. Let the rest of us think for ourselves.
Throughout every recent presidential campaign, a dialogue develops in the media between the major candidates for the job. The candidate best able to position themselves before the public takes the job.
The dialogue has its context. Voters have a distinct perception of the most important issue, how well or how poorly the economy is doing. And they hear reports of how wars are going.
This perception is how Ronald Reagan used the phrase “Morning in America” in his re-election campaign of 1984. As the public already believed, rightly or wrongly, that the nation had peace and prosperity, Reagan’s dialogue was strengthened.
As a way of telling the public not to argue with success, he said of his opponent, Walter Mondale, that he “never met a tax he didn’t hike” and that he “taxes [Reagan’s] patience.” Mondale’s response, that he was being “honest” about the need for new taxes, got lost in the dialogue. Given the choice of a candidate who promised jobs and a candidate who promised the truth, voters as a group were conditioned to optimism and believed they could have both.
A dialogue over taxes took over the following election between Vice President George H. W. Bush and Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Bush lacked his predecessor’s congenial manner and used issues in a more cynical way.
Bush’s dialogue included phrases such as “read my lips, no new taxes” and a name for his opponent’s state, “Taxachusetts.” But on the issue of crime, he repeatedly named a man who had been released as part of the Massachusetts furlough program and who had then raped a woman. Television commercials made it clear that the prisoner, Willie Horton, was a black man.
It was as if Bush was saying that the voters ought to fear a Dukakis election as crime and taxes would go up. He also threw in Dukakis’ veto of a bill that would have made a teacher’s refusal to lead the pledge of allegiance a crime. It was an assault on Dukakis for some of his ideas of public safety, taxes and patriotism.
Dukakis responded by explaining that a predecessor had started the furlough program and that he (Dukakis) had ended it after the Horton incident. He attacked Bush for promising not to raise taxes (a pledge that came back to haunt Bush albeit too late to help Dukakis). And he made it clear that he had gotten an advisory opinion about the bill on the pledge of allegiance from his state’s highest court, which told him it was unconstitutional.
The dialogue had Dukakis on the defensive even before he answered. Bush picked issues that evoke a visceral response but would not have gotten away with selecting these issues had the economy not be understood by the public to be satisfactory. Bush could not get re-elected because the economy had worsened over the next four years and because he had to defend his own record.
So what is in store for the election of 2012?
The economy has gone from bad in 2008 to…bad in 2012. President Obama will talk about his health care legislation and how the Supreme Court found it to be constitutional.
Mitt Romney will have to find a new way to attack a law patterned to a good extent after a law he signed when governor of Massachusetts. He will also have to explain what he would do differently than Obama in turning around the economy.
The burden is on Romney to find a chord that even some Democrats can agree with. Obama has positioned himself as a somebody. It will take a somebody to beat one.
When you discuss matters on the Internet and get responses, be alert for those who want to make you the issue. They prey upon those who have the audacity to say what they do not agree with. Once you spot them, you will be wise to avoid communicating with them.
But first you have to spot them.
One sign of trouble comes when somebody puts a label on you. They may say that you are a “liberal” or a “wing nut” or a “wacko” though they do not even know you and do not likely know much about your ideas.
These people are easy to identify because their use of labels is about all they have to offer. They tend to see or understand complicated issues in black and white terms and once they put you in a label box, they do not care what you have to say. Ignore them and move on to more interesting people.
The Subject Changer
A little more subtle are those who pretend to consider your point of view but they ignore the context with which you make your comments. They shift the focus of the debate.
For example, I argued in an essay in 2003 that the Democratic Party should not nominate General Wesley Clark for President. I made this statement because he had not been a member of the party for very long and he had endorsed several Republican candidates for a long period of time shortly before the Democratic primaries.
I got back replies from people who questioned whether I had paid my dues, though I was not a candidate. Some suggested I was a Republican or that I was for another candidate, neither of which was true. Here is a partial list of the replies I received:
Others may ask you to provide detail for your point of view. And when you do that, they respond with more complaints about your ideas than you can wrap your head around! Too bad you are not discussing the matter in person, where you could cut them off at some point!
It can be mentally exhausting to go through each of the claims made by an opponent, especially one who misstates evidence, misquotes you or takes you out of context or otherwise manipulates you into thinking that you are in a fair debate. If you proceed with the person, you have two choices: (1) answer every claim they make or (2) answer selectively.
Neither choice is very good. Answering every claim will undoubtedly produce more rebuttals from your adversary and more headaches from their unbalanced logic. But if you only answer some of the claims, you will likely get a response that your silence on the unanswered ones must mean you endorse their point of view on them.
You will really go nowhere discussing anything with those who play games with the facts and with your mind. Like the one who pays the piper, you should call the tune in how you debate another person.
Simply say up front that you would like to argue one issue at a time. If the other person does not comply, walk away. If they call you names, walk away. If they insinuate you do not care about victims or any other irrational point of view, walk away.
And walk towards the conversations of civilized people.
Instead of Rolling with the Punches, Obama Should Throw a Few
The Republicans recently told President Obama he will have a hard time getting anything he wants passed in the House.
John McCain warned that soldiers will leave the military “in droves” if “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed by Congress.
Republicans of lesser renown are still telling us that Obama is a Muslim, or that he was born outside the United States or that he is ruining our country.
Some call this sort of behavior bullying. And they have a point. But the typical Democratic behavior in response makes it something different.
Consider the 2000 Election controversy, which took place exactly ten years ago. At first Vice President Al Gore acted as if he would put up a fight for the Presidency. Then, the Republicans started telling the public that Gore wanted to throw out the ballots of those who voted absentee from overseas (mostly military personnel).
They got Norman Schwarzkopf to accuse Gore of denying people in the military the right to vote. Montana Governor Mark Racicot, one of the Republican’s spokespersons, said that “...the vice president’s lawyers have gone to war, in my judgment, against the men and women who serve in the armed forces.”
Gore and his running-mate, Joe Lieberman, had the law on their side. Hundreds of ballots came into Florida from overseas after the deadline, without time stamps or with time stamps marked too late and/or without a proper witness.
These ballots, for one, could have made a difference in the outcome, even without consideration of the under votes and over votes. For another, the Republicans’ support for counting them, even with these flaws, was counter to Florida law.
It is well worth recalling that the Republican Secretary of State of Florida disallowed a county board’s recounts because they were submitted two hours later than her deadline! The Democrats could have landed a punch against the Republicans for their inconsistent support of the rules.
But the Gore-Lieberman team simply folded. The Republicans pulled out the military card and dared Gore to say something that might be construed against him. Some have suggested that Gore did not want to be President if the military had turned against him. But this issue was not really about the presidency: it was about having a competitive election system.
By caving in to Republican bullying, Gore and the current Democrats tell the public that they are really OK with getting pushed around and accused falsely of not supporting the military, or that they are do not care about terrorism or whatever way the Republicans want to portray them.
The Democrats are not victims. They are putting on an act called the “Good cop, bad cop” act. They pretend to be fair and nice but when decisions need to be made, they yield to the bad cop. How else can we explain the Iraq War, which many Democrats gave in to President Bush’s pressure talk about Saddam Hussein, for example?
The governance of our nation is not a matter of police interrogation. It is a prize fight for the future rights and way of life for us all. Instead of pulling punches, Obama and company ought to try throwing a few.
The United States has no solid answers in response to the numerous problems facing us.
Unemployment is still double-digits in many areas. So we wonder about our economic security, without which we can do so little.
Two wars, Afghanistan and Iraq, fought for no good reason, continue. So we wonder about our nation's future in foreign affairs and about those who volunteer for the armed forces.
The government will still not release relevant information pertaining to events such as the JFK Assassination. So we wonder about the honesty of those who lead us.
We are a nation without answers because we do not ask the right questions. Political discussion, to be of use to our society, would revolve around identifying problems like the ones above, asking questions so as to determine their cause and use hypothesis to test for solutions. Instead, our discussion has been about whose fault something is and how it will affect the two main political parties in the next election.
Instead we hear people's feelings about political parties and candidates and outrage over who has done or said what. Two recent news stories, of Dr. Laura using the "N-word" on the radio and the proposed building of a mosque and cultural center near the World Trade Center, have stirred far more emotion than sense in those talking about them. We should respond to fear by calling upon reason. I really believe that we can do better than this and here is what I propose:
For every opinion like "Obama is not a natural-born citizen," we can use the reason of a summary judgment argument to determine if it is worthwhile to continue. In other words, we could stipulate or say for the sake of argument that the statement is true. Then we ask if it matters. Even if Obama is not a natural-born citizen, there is nothing Congress or anyone else can do to remove him from office. So we should drop the subject or put it into the political file for his opponents in 2012.
For every opinion like "The 'terrorists' are going to get us" we can employ facts over fear. We should ask who "they" are. If one responds the "Muslims" or "Radical Islam," we could ask for facts, such as any facts pointing to radical Muslims in regards to 9/11. Keeping accusers honest is imperative to keeping down the threshold of prejudice and bigotry in our society.
For every opinion like "Public employees are fat cats," we can address ad hominem attacks. Such statements stereotype a group of people unfairly and are becoming common after the City of Bell fiasco in which members of the City Council and other city employees arranged for huge salaries and pensions. The fact is that not all public employees are so well off: the average retired public employee receives $20,000 per year as a pension.
Reason tells us that it is wrong to attack those who cannot fight back. Good discussion is fair and affords everyone a chance to respond. Even if one wants all illegal immigrants deported, the scapegoating of this group or anyone without a voice in power destroys this basic tenet.
We need a dialogue, not a monologue. We can ask questions and listen to others to answer. In fact, we must do this or risk further dividing this nation based on emotions, prejudices and biases.
Here are four questions that we as a nation should answer as part of a dialogue:
What is the proper role of our government and how can we apply this role to basic issues?
Do we support the equality of opportunity and if not, to whom do we deny it and why?
How do we decide when it is time to go to war?
What is a reasonable expectation of privacy in this day and age of the Internet and cell phones?
The public should know the basics of law. Simple knowledge of legal rules like the presumption of innocence, that a law is presumed constitutional upon its passage unless a proper court rules otherwise and that the Bill of Rights refers to the government's suppression of rights like free speech and not the private sector's actions.
We can find the answers to what troubles us and make our nation a better place to live. That's my opinion. What is yours?