Thursday, July 29, 2004

Embracing The Extremists

I was checking out Andrew Sullivan's page and caught up with his comments about Barak Obama. When Obama made the following comment:

When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never– ever– go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.

Now let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued – and they must be defeated.

John Kerry knows this.

Sullivan responds:

So the anti-Bush argument is framed in terms of defending our troops. I also think that the term "shade the truth" is far more defensible rhetoric against the White House than the cant about lying and misleading the country. I still don't believe there was any deliberate shading of any truth. But it's a deft way of laying into the administration while not sounding like Michael Moore.

I agree. But it brings up a point I've been trying to make for several years. The kind of "liar" rhetoric that comes from people like Michael Moore provides a useful service. It makes comments like "shade the truth" appear more "defensible" to people like Andrew Sullivan.

In other words, if Michael Moore weren't out there calling Bush a liar, Barak Obama would be more vulnerable to criticism for claiming that Bush "shades the truth". Moore draws the worst of the fire away from the more moderate voices in the party, and thus allows those voices to make the point that really needs to be made in a way that will really stick.

It was when the Democratic party shunned its more extreme elements that it started to lose power because it no longer had them out their absorbing the fire of the opposition. The Republican party has rarely felt the need to exclude its own extreme elements. Indeed, some of them now how positions of great power in the administration. This has allowed them to steamroll the Democrats and the rest of the country.

Of course, the Republicans have gone beyond simply allowing their extreme members to enter the tent. They have allowed them to take over the political and policy levers of the party.

I wouldn't want Moore to be in charge of fashioning policy for the party. I wouldn't want him to be in a position comparable to Karl Rove. That would be just as bad as what we have now, just to the opposite extreme.

Democrats are learning the lesson that many extended families understand: don't be ashamed of that colorful uncle who makes a fool of himself in front of others. Just understand that loving him does not require agreeing with him.

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