Saturday, June 12, 2004

On Wonk

Brad Delong says, regarding policy debate:

No. It has not always been like that. It was not like that in the Clinton administration. It was not like that as far as foreign policy was concerned in the Bush I administration when Brent Scowcroft ran the National Security Council. It was not like that in the Ford administration.

He's right. It has not always been like that. DeLong is talking about within presidential administrations, but I'm more referring to the popular and media discourse about politics. I don't think coverage of policy was always very good. I think the media has been frequently completely wrong in its reporting on policy debates. However, I do remember when there was at least the illusion of debate, at least on PBS and NPR and within the better dailies.

Even the Gingrich Contract With America, as much as a fraud as it was, was about policy.

But during the 2000 election, the press got stupid and declared it all too complicated to understand. Regarding Bush and Gore's budget numbers, which were clear as day for all to see, Ted Koppel remarked on Larry King "You know, honestly, it turns my brains to mush. I can’t pretend for a minute that I’m really able to follow the argument of the debates. Parts of it, yes. Parts of it, I haven’t a clue what they’re talking about." There was outward hostility not only to the notion that candidates would gain supporters by talking policy seriously (a longtime press CW), but outward hostility to the notion that policy mattered at all.

Obviously, after 9/11 there was no meaningful debate. Then came Iraq, about which there came no media debate despite the fact that the one bit of policy the media embraced during the 2000 election was one little piece of foreign policy - "The Powell Doctrine."

Now there is only partisanship. Everything is viewed entirely through that lens. All policy proposals are pandering, and all differences are of appeal not substance.

And, given Republican domination of the government there's no possible way for legislated officials to have meaningful debate unless the press gives them a platform, which they don't. Opposition to Bush foreign policy is unpatriotic, and discussion of domestic policy turns Ted Koppel's brain to mush.

As for within this administration - it's 3 parts ideology, 4 parts rewarding favored corporate interests, and 3 parts "making shit up" to try and justify the first two.