Jewish World Review Feb. 23, 2011 / 19 Adar I, 5771
Bill O's yawner
By Paul Greenberg
I tried to stay interested in
Interviewer and interviewee quibbled the whole way, like an unhappy couple you really didn't want to overhear, and the more they spoke, the less they said. A familiar pattern was established from the first and maintained to the end: feint, jab and move on. To sum up the sequence: Gotcha, No You Don't, Next Question....
Not a thought in a carload, or at least not a new one. Just the same old routine delivered by a couple of jaded troupers who know each other's lines so well they must have been happy for the show to end. Which gave them something in common with much of the audience watching.
If there was anything striking about this interview, it was how sealed-off the mind of each participant seemed. Like political ads passing in the night. They had to have been as bored as the viewers. Then again, what I don't know about how political egos work is a lot. They may have found each other's talking points absolutely fascinating, though surely not as fascinating as their own.
It's a common enough problem when politicians or just those who comment on politics from the sidelines appear before the television camera's unblinking eye. They don't seem to have thoughts so much as an agenda, and they stick to it.
This much the Bill-and-Barack Show captured perfectly: the poverty of American discourse. Indeed, is there any discourse left, or has it been completely replaced by dueling sound bites that never really engage with each other?
It was like watching a tennis match in which the much-hyped stars don't actually play each other. They just occupy the same court and take turns smashing the ball into the net; there are no real volleys. That's not sport, it's self-absorption, however good both may be at it.
The overwhelming impression left by the interview was that any real discourse, any real engagement over ideas, was taking place somewhere else at the moment. Probably in
In this country, the Lincoln-Douglas debates did a pretty good job of elucidating the same age-old choice. Imagine that: two presidential hopefuls actually discussing the great issues facing the country with some acuity, intellect and respect for one another. And for the electorate. Amazing. How out of place they would be on cable news.
You never forget your first time. The first presidential campaign I can remember in any detail was the match between
It was a different era, and how. Those of us in Mr. Evans' debate class at
These days, to judge by the ideologically straitjacketed stars of cable news, left or right, the lunatic fringe has become the warp and woof of the whole fabric. (Thank you,
It's all enough to make you wonder what ever happened to those most useful of political species, the skeptical conservative and the skeptical liberal. The kind of conservative who, like
The late great Scoop Jackson, U.S. senator and Cold Warrior, used to say he was a liberal "but I try not to be a damfool." Where would we find a Scoop Jackson in the
And where on today's right is there anyone like
Where today is our
Nor do we seem to have a
They've still got to be out there, the writers and thinkers and politicians who actually engage the ideas of the other side, but you're not likely to find them on MSNBC or
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