Monday, June 15, 2009

Dangerous politics

Inspired by Octogalore’s recent comment, I decided to resuscitate my “From there to here” series and actually finish up the next post in the series. Wanting to put off actually diving back into it for as long as possible - Part 3 deals largely with my disenchantment with Andrew Sullivan - I instead re-read the two posts I’ve already done in the category. In the second one I wrote:

That change by the media, that willingness to attribute bad will and worse motives to government has now spread through our political discourse and in far too many people has mutated into a willingness to believe the worst about all those who do not think as they do.

This seemed particularly appropriate when I read Leon Panetta’s musings on Dick Cheney in The New Yorker:

Panetta, pouring a cup of coffee, responded to Cheney’s speech with surprising candor. “I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue,” he told me. “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”

I know that Panetta - or at least his office - has now “clarified” the statement, saying:

“The Director does not believe the former Vice President wants an attack,” a spokesman told CNN. “He did not say that. He was simply expressing his profound disagreement with the assertion that President Obama’s security policies have made our country less safe. Nor did he question anyone’s motives.”

To me this almost makes it worse. If Panetta does not actually believe that Cheney was playing politics - “dangerous politics” - with our nation’s security and our own lives then why did he say what he did? Has attributing bad will and worse motives to a political opponent become so much the currency of political discourse that Panetta was unable to think of any other way to express disagreement?

1 comment:

Octogalore said...

Later they tried to hide behind the "almost." Unconvincingly. It was still about attacking the person rather than the ideas, which yeah, has become the norm.

Looking forward to Part 3! I enjoyed N-N's similar "From there to here" post that you pointed me to. Yours bears more resemblance to mine in that it occurred more recently and dealt more with the coinciding of various social and economic realizations around the 2008 election.