Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Conservatives can (and should) fight like Liberals

Brendan Miniter's piece in the Wall Street Journal online brings up a topic I have admittedly mixeed feelings about. The rules of political discourse have changed. The media deals in "soundbites": terse and shrill, they are designed to make the biggest point with the fewest words (not my forte, I know). Soundbites have evolved, or devolved IMO, into the verbal equivalent of smashmouth football. Execution of ones politcal opponents should be swift, powerful and certain to cause maximum damage.

Many Democrats believe this era began with the persecution of President Clinton, and its' progenitors were Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott. Granted, the Far Right did jump all over Clinton. But let's be honest: it isn't as if Clinton didn't open the door and invite them in. The Democrats gave it back as good as they got it, so no one comes out clean when looking back on the 1990's and the "politics of personal destruction". Americans have a long tradition of enjoying political sport. With the advent of terrorism, however, the stakes have been raised, and our tolerance for political sport is dwindling. Personal attacks, or character assassinations, are acceptable amusements available to the power class in times of plenty. Should they be acceptable in times like ours?

One of my complaints about the Bush administration is that they don't argue their point very well. Lacking skills in persuasion and P.R., they allow their opponents to frame the argument, and this has damaged their ability to convince the American public to stay the course in Iraq. I'd like to see them communicate their position clearly and forcefully. I'm just not sure I want them to come out swinging. To me, mean-spirited political discourse is the handmaiden of The Left (*I know this statement could go both ways. I'm merely expressing my opinion*), and I hate the thought of stopping to their level.

Evolving Tactics: Conservatives learn to fight like liberals.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Christopher Hitchens on Cindy Sheehan & A.M.A.

From last week comes Christopher Hitchens' assessment of "Gold Star Mom" Cindy Sheehan, courtesy of Slate. A.M.A., if you are unfamiliar, isn't the American Medical Association. Our newest acronym comes via lush extradinaire, Maureen Dowd, who unilaterally conferred upon Mother Sheehan "Absolute Moral Authority" by dint of having lost a child in Iraq. Somehow, I don't think MoDo would have been quite as generous had the Mom been a continued supporter of the war in which her son had given his life.

In his essay, Hitchens conveys why summary judgments such as Dowd's are off the mark, and the danger of painting people with too broad a brush. The killer paragraph, as only Hitch can write 'em:

I am at a complete loss to see how these two positions (ed.: that of Dowd & Sheehan's supporters) can be made compatible. Sheehan has obviously taken a short course in the Michael Moore/Ramsey Clark school of Iraq analysis and has not succeeded in making it one atom more elegant or persuasive. I dare say that her "moral authority" to do this is indeed absolute, if we agree for a moment on the weird idea that moral authority is required to adopt overtly political positions, but then so is my "moral" right to say that she is spouting sinister piffle. Suppose I had lost a child in this war. Would any of my critics say that this gave me any extra authority? I certainly would not ask or expect them to do so. Why, then, should anyone grant them such a privilege?

In my mind, Christopher Hitchens is the only person who can write the expression "I dare say" and not sound like a pufftah.