Thursday, June 15, 2006


I'm subscribing to C-SPAN's Road To The White House podcast, even though I don't much care for the way politicians peacock.

That said, I heard some stuff I liked in the Russ Feingold and Mark Warner episode, especially Warner's bit. He makes a good case for himself. Virginia seems a mighty conservative state (witness the George Allen episode), so an incredibly popular and effective Democrat governor of that state is impressive indeed. The Feingold stuff is cool too, I suppose. The Democrats certainly need backbone and a sense of purpose. But I'm getting so tired of the partisan venom that's infected national politics. I'm so tired of it that I can't even bear to hate Bush anymore. So it's so refreshing to hear a guy like Warner talk about all the ways he's worked to find middle ground and create policies that actually make a difference in folks' lives.

Then there's these great speeches by John McCain and Newt Gingrich. I know a few of my relatives back in Indiana are gasping, especially at the Gingrich nod. But I've got to praise what's praiseworthy.

It's not that I connected with either of the Republicans' policy positions, especially the laundry list of reactionary crap Newt tossed out at the end of his speach. But the core of these philosophical speeches transcended difference of opinion. They drove right to the heart of what I think it means to be American.

Gingrich talked at length about Lincoln, focusing on his debates against Douglas, his speech at Cooper Union before the Civil War, and his second inaugural address near its end. He marveled at the change of perspective these speeches convey. He held up these moments from an agonizing political career as a lens through which to view the dischord we're experiencing now. It was an eloquent and moving narrative essay, and I pumped my fist in affirmation as he suggested that the nation's leaders resuscitate the Lincoln-Douglas debates in the 21st Century. Hold them in every state, and broadcast them on C-SPAN. Let's just have it out, politely and in public, and let's make sure we shake hands at the beginning and end of each round, just like high school debaters do. Oh how wonderful that would be.

And McCain's address to the graduating class of Liberty University inspired me greatly. Again, I can't say I agree with the policies he claimed to stand behind, but that was the whole point of his speech -- that we must, as Americans, actively but respectfully disagree.

He told a story of a fellow American who had protested the Vietnam War while he was held in a prison camp. Images of the protests were broadcast into McCain's cell. Both McCain and this other fellow were, of course, very young at the time, with impassioned convictions, and they might well have come to blows if they'd met then. But years later their lives intertwined and they became friends. Neither let go of the opinions they'd held about the war in their younger days. But now they could not only respect one another's opinion, but could actually embrace their differences as the very freedom they both fought for way back when.

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