Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Cool-Headed And Under-Reported Obama Speech Discusses Hot-Headed And Over-Reported Partisan Rhetoric

Some excerpts from Obama's Commencement Address at the University of Michigan. Typical Obama rhetoric to be sure, but it's a very canny, cool-headed assessment of how them media prefers to report shrill, divisive soundbites. Of course since it wasn't a shrill, divisive soundbite it didn't get widely reported. Anyway, full marks to Obama for faith in reason.


The media tends to play up every hint of conflict, because it makes for a sexier story, which means anyone interested in getting coverage feels compelled to make their arguments as outrageous and as incendiary as possible....

We can't expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down. You can disagree with a certain policy without demonizing the person who espouses it. You can question somebody's views and their judgment without questioning their motives or their patriotism. Throwing around phrases like 'socialists' and 'Soviet-style takeover' and 'fascist' and 'right-wing nut' -- that may grab headlines, but it also has the effect of comparing our government, our political opponents, to authoritarian, even murderous regimes.

Now, we've seen this kind of politics in the past. It's been practiced by both fringes of the ideological spectrum, by the left and the right, since our nation's birth. But it's starting to creep into the center of our discourse. ... The problem is that this kind of vilification and over-the-top rhetoric closes the door to the possibility of compromise. It undermines democratic deliberation. It makes it nearly impossible for people who have legitimate but bridgeable differences to sit down at the same table and hash things out. It robs us of a rational and serious debate, the one we need to have about the very real and very big challenges facing this nation. It coarsens our culture, and at its worst, it can send signals to the most extreme elements of our society that perhaps violence is a justifiable response.

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