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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Three things

Over the course of this week I have seen several issues or trends that have turned into more fuel for "Tribal Warfare" when they should be things anyone with a brain could agree on regardless of their party afiliation:

1: Acceptance of the political answer to the question that wasn't asked.
Remember the old joke about the teacher who asks a student, "if you have 5 apples and you eat 2, how many do you have left?" only to have the kid say, "I don't like apples so I wouldn't eat any." ? If you've been watching any press conferences, you probably have wondered if Sarah Huckabee Sanders was that kid.

Young Sarah

And while that would be an understandable reaction, the truth is you can see this evasion every day on every channel coming out of the mouths of people from every side who don't want to admit something unpleasant or answer something difficult.  And it isn't new. This tactic has been going on for decades or longer. 

And as citizens we accept this as a norm. Why? I would love to see interviewers who get an answer like this stop the interview and say, "until you answer the question I asked, we aren't going any further." and if the guest tries to fill the silent air time with anything other than an answer, they should be muted. AND it shouldn't matter WHO does it. And if it happens during a press conference, reporters should stick to a tactic of continuing to ask the same question, even if the press secretary moves to another person, until it is answered.

2: Allowing the President to accrue more autonomous executive power.
This too is NOT solely a "Trump Issue"! This started slowly under various presidents from both parties for decades, with the worst offenders being Clinton, Bush2, Obama, & now Trump. These folks, from BOTH parties slowly let the genie out of the bottle and now it's getting harder to stuff him back in.

Our Founding Fathers were careful to establish a government where, while the executive branch had the ability to make things happen, mainly in times of crisis when a quick decision needed to be made, most things required Congressional approval. After King George III, no one wanted another monarch. But we are heading that way.

One of the reasons this came about was the growing polarity in politics that made compromise and cooperation obsolete and replaced it with stubborn bi-partisan stonewalling. In order to get ANYTHING done, presidents began to use executive orders more frequently.........but it's a bad way to go. Which brings us to:

3: Civility
You have heard a LOT about this one lately, and I recently saw someone who agrees with my take on this.......but maybe for different reasons:

While I like a lot of what Noah says, I would like to take it a step further and say that public 'incivility' should encompass both sides. Folks with extreme views on the left should be just as apt to be publicly shamed as those on the right. It should get to a point where NO politician is cozy and safe unless they are actively working for compromise solutions to get things done. Let it become unbearable to be anything but a moderate voice with disparities in ideology being actively worked out rather than stubbornly stuck to in some ridiculous, 'pure' form.

And if such a thing came about, THEN Congress could get back to productive work regardless of who held a majority of seats, AND no one would need to resort to the very risky policy of just handing over more unchecked authority to a president......ANY president.

The funny thing is the way things are now, my arguments are already agreed halves! If I said, "Obama went too far with executive orders" folks on the right would cheer, but if I said the same thing about Bush or Trump they'd be less agreeable. If I said "yeah, go harass that administration official!" I'd likely get agreement from whatever party was NOT the focus of the harassment.  The thing is maybe this polarized view coming from US is the real problem? Maybe being a public with extreme positions and a reluctance to compromise is why we have representatives who, because they want our votes, are less likely to compromise? And maybe we accept evasive answers as a norm, and are willing to throw truth on the scrap heap because we know deep down, we can't even be honest about ourselves?


  1. Your suggested solution presented in the first point, about evasive answers would, only contribute to the lack of civility you rightly regret. An evasive answer from a politician, or anyone else for that matter, is an "answer" to the question, even if we don't like what we hear. It would be enough for a reporter who has received what he or she takes to be an evasive answer to a question to point this out and go on to something else, or say nothing and let listeners draw this conclusion. The truth is that civil society requires evasive answers on occasion, but not as a steady diet. I get your point.

    1. Hello and welcome. Before I begin, I'd like to point out that we have two rules for commenting: 1: that the comment pertain to the post.....which yours does. (thank you) and 2: Anonymous posters are asked to leave a name of some kind at the bottom of their comment so people looking to join the conversation know who they are talking to.

      On to your comment: I think you misunderstood my position on incivility. While I may not like it, I think it could be useful now to get things back to where they should be. I also do not agree that a non-answer is an answer. (If it was then the teacher getting the "I don't eat apples" response should have to mark the response as correct......which they don't.) Also, silently not moving on until an answer is given need not be a catalyst for incivility. It would just be.......quiet. Like a long period of silence. People like a Kellyanne Conway who won't answer a direct question but love having a platform to espouse whatever they DO want to say on TV, would be denied that chance until the direct question is answered.

      Also an evasive answer is fine when it's something social.....'does this dress make me look fat?', but has no place in intelligent political discourse. If a person can't say what the position is, then they should not be given a platform to speak. Instead someone competent enough to answer the question and confident that their position is nothing to be ashamed of, should get the spotlight. If the truth embarrasses a guest or they are reluctant to speak it, then perhaps their position is not a very good one.

      Good post BTW. t laid out a valid point and even though I don't fully agree, it was lucidly thought out and intelligently expressed.

  2. The problem with everything right now is enabled stupidity. If you check the bell curve you'll notice that most of humanity has the processing power of dollar store solar calculator. Feeding these people empowerment with easily shareable memes and posts laden with repeatable nonsense has given them a voice. But, Without the critical thinking skills to understand the cplex issues to which they have been given simple and untennable answers, they are unable to resonably debate the issues at hand. Instead they simply repeat the rebutted nonsense, feeling they have said something of importance. Leaving the capable feelimg as though they are speaking to a bucket of fish heads. The scary notion is how many of them there are. Stupid people, and bless their hearts it isn't their fault, outnumber us in the millions.

    1. I don't disagree but I also don't know who I'm not disagreeing with? Are you the same Anonymous from before? A different one? Please leave a name of some kind at the end of your comment or interesting as they may be.....I will delete them for noncompliance with our simple forum guidelines. Thanks.

  3. I go back and forth on the civility thing. Part of me wants to take the high road. The whole Michelle Obama “If they go low, we go high” thing. On the other hand, so many of these guys are so utterly detestable, it is fun seeing them getting some of their own treatment. I think there are far worse people in that administration that Sanders but, on the other hand, she has defended things like a business’s right not to serve someone who is gay. Whether you support or don’t support that position, Sanders is simply not in a position to support a right to discriminate then whine when someone applies it to her.

    1. Agreed. I prefer manners and civility.......but even the Bible says we shouldn't cast our pearls before swine, so if it means giving folks a taste of their own medicine on occasion? Well, OK with me.

  4. No evasive answer here: I apologize for not including the name Doug in the first anonymous response. This was unintended.

    Thanks for your extensive response to my comment, even if we disagree.

    It seems to me that national and local news broadcasts are frequently "evasive" by what they deliberately choose not to report -- sometimes highly relevant information that an informed citizenry should be told about. Perhaps this practice should be called "selection bias" rather than "evasiveness," but, in my opinion, it is just as reprehensible as the politician who fails to answer a direct question - actually more so because it is harder for listeners to detect.


    1. Thanks for letting me know the first comment was yours. And I don't think we fundamentally's more of a nuanced difference.

      And as for your assessment of the media? No argument at all! One of my most infuriating peeves with Trump is that his scary attacks on the a point of seemingly endorsing the silencing of criticism...... has forced me to defend lazy, lopsided, inaccurate by omission, and frankly plebeian journalism when I would much prefer criticizing them and calling them out on their half-assed reporting. Maybe if Trump criticized the media from a position of personal credibility I could get behind his remarks. But being the least credible president I have ever seen in my lifetime, his attacks seem like the calculated diversions of a liar using half-truths to obscure his own flagrant mendacity.