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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Sunday, May 22, 2005


gotcha politics

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, May 22, 2005 permalink View blog reactions
Why do self-styled political analysts prefer the "gotcha" game rather than substantive debate? Because such analysts are more concerned with short-term political advantage only, bereft of principle. Case in point:


Mark Kilmer of takes a low shot at Howard Dean, using this excerpt from the transcript of Dean's Meet The Press appearance this weekend.

MR. RUSSERT: "Well, you said there were weapons of mass destruction."

DR. DEAN: "I said I wasn't sure, but I said I thought there probably were. But the thing that really bothered me the most, which the 9-11 Commission said also wasn't true, is the insinuation that the president continues to make to this day that Osama bin Laden had something to do with supporting terrorists that attacked the United States. That is false. The 9-11 Commission, chaired by a Republican, said it was false. Is it wrong to send people to war without telling them the truth. And the truth was Osama bin Laden was a very bad person who was doing terrible things, but that Iraq was never a threat to the United States. That was the truth."

Dean says OBL when he meant to say Saddam Hussein, above. Slip of the tounge and all that. Kilmer crows about the slipup, but I couldn't find where he similarly castigated George W. Bush for precisely the same error during the first debate with John Kerry:

BUSH: Of course we're after Saddam Hussein -- I mean bin Laden.

In the context of the debate, Bush's slipup was demonstrably more serious - because the decision to go to war hinged in no small part upon the very issue of how relevant Saddam was to 9-11. Given that the Downing Street Memo pretty much establishes that war with Iraq was a fait accompli, I think that Bush supporters are treading on thin ice indeed to draw too much attention to Dean's slipup.

This gotcha game is really a diversion from honest, principled debate. Because both Bush during that debate and Dean during the Meet The Press segment above had valid points, upon which a truly informative discussion between dissenting opinions could be constructed. Sadly, the likelihood that such a debate will occur is slim, if it involved self-styled Republicanists rather than true conservatives.


Yes both sides (and the media more than they) engage in this tactic. The proliferation of Bushisms is based on this type of "gotcha politics." It's part of the soap opera-ization of news and politics. Unfortunate and somehow unavoidable.


I absolutely disagree that it is unavoidable. It only requires that the partisans on a given side hold their OWN side accountable.


I agree with the original post that this "gotcha" game is for the purpose of short-term advantage. How else could it explain that much of what passes for news commentary is really an attempt to "deny,distort,or distract" from real news?


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.