Thursday, April 17, 2008

One more on the debate

I've seen several more comments on last night's Democratic debate. Brad DeLong provides a couple of links to columns by Greg Mitchell and Tom Shales which are quite good. On the other hand, the peculiar David Brooks sullies the New York Times with his odd take on the proceedings:
I thought the questions were excellent. The journalist’s job is to make politicians uncomfortable, to explore evasions, contradictions and vulnerabilities. Almost every question tonight did that. The candidates each looked foolish at times, but that’s their own fault.
If that is the belief of a prominent journalist as to what journalism is, I strongly recommend that Mr. Brooks leave his post immediately, pick up a camera, and become a paparazzo, free to make his subjects "uncomfortable."

Maybe the best overall words I read on the subject came from across the ocean, from a Guardian column by Niall Stanage. I was motivated to leave a comment (reproduced here):
As an American who was appalled by last night's debate, I commend Mr. Stanage for his insight. While every point he has made is trenchant and well-chosen, this one: "And, more generally, if the views of every person with whom a presidential candidate has ever interacted are to be judged as possible disqualifiers from office, America's political future would look very impoverished indeed," struck me as particularly appropriate.

Politics is essentially the art of engagement, and that involves dealing with people who may not conform to your belief, of whom you may not approve. The idea of absolutism is antithetical to politics; would it be better for Hillary to walk out of a church in which her pastor made offensive remarks, or should she attempt to enlighten the pastor, building on the good work the church is doing? If the former, does the same apply to a meeting with Putin, or dare I say, Mr. Brown, if they express a sentiment with which she disagrees? Should she just walk away?

No one lives in a bubble in which he or she can control all interactions, least of all a political leader. Perhaps we can control our self-righteousness long enough to understand that.

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