At dinner with friends last week, one mentioned that if Mitch Daniels runs for president, at least we would have an “adult conversation” about the many issues and crises facing this country. I can’t disagree. In Mitch’s appearance on Meet the Press on Sunday, he did his best to stick to his principled stand on the fiscal issues he cares about. He’s a budget guy; he doesn’t give a damn about the social issues that frame the debate in the far right wing of his party. He readily says, “I don’t know” and refuses to be drawn into the “gotcha.” George Will and David Brooks <3 him.
But the forces of righteousness tilting ever rightward are sucking the entire Republican party into their vortex, a swirling mass of indignation and misinformation against all things progressive… civil rights, environmental protection, safe food, sensible financial regulation, sensible gun laws, investments in infrastructure, health care… and on and on and on.
All the Hope we Dems had when the country turned blue for a split second has been dashed by a strange adherence to the same-old same-old. The wars, Gitmo and reauthorization of the so-called “Patriot Act.” Bank bailouts that have fueled the greed on Wall Street and ignored the needs on Main Street. The usurpation by corporations of most major media, elections, federal regulations and government decisions. Unmitigated commercial campaign advertising made inevitable by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling last January.
Can we have an adult conversation? Having worked on campaigns, I think it’s difficult for candidates to remain true to their ideals and stay plain spoken when talking points and sound bites rule the day. Candidates have inhumanly punishing schedules, and unfortunately, they need the professional campaign people who parachute in to run their campaigns. But these same professional campaign folks do the happy dance at every perceived “screw-up-gone-viral” on the opposing side. Scruples be damned so long as votes are secured. One has to look no further than John McCain to see what a political campaign can do to someone who was once viewed as reasonable, sensible and moderate.
Can we have an adult conversation? Not when half the country takes as gospel the rantings of entertainer-pundits Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity and many others. While The New York Times, NPR, the BBC, CNN and a handful of other print and broadcast media outlets have reporters ON THE GROUND covering events unfolding in Japan, Libya, Bahrain, Ivory Coast and everywhere else, these calculating, self-serving, unpatriotic blowhards are whipping up the fear from their cushy New York studios by spreading misinformation. They lie, and people believe them. Says Rush: “These people [the media] are looking for disaster. They want disaster upon disaster. They want the nuclear meltdown. They want the Japanese syndrome, if you will. They want this stuff.” Dirty. Rotten. Liar.
You can’t have an adult conversation without adults. Here’s more of the aforementioned Rush Limbaugh misinformation campaign:
“The media is liberal, you understand what that means, so in case of somebody like me I’m suspicious of everything they say, ‘cause they’re liberals. …all I needed to know is Obama’s a liberal. It really is that simple. The media is liberal. What do we know about the US media? We know that they are in an unalterable alliance with the American left and the worldwide left. What do we know about the American left and the worldwide left? What do we know that they oppose and what they hate?
It’s very simple: Once you understand who the people are, what their politics are, then you can understand the rubric and the umbrella in which they do their jobs. So you therefore conclude that pretty much every story coming out of Japan from the American media is gonna be anti-nuclear industry, and it’s gonna have not just reporting about what’s going on in Japan. There will be accompanying stories why we never, ever should build another nuclear plant ever anywhere in the world much less the United States, pure and simple — which, of course, has nothing to do with the story in Japan. It has nothing to do with the facts on the ground in Japan.
The media is tweeting things left and right. The AP just tweeted: ‘Japanese Utility Says Fuel Rods at Troubled Quake-Hit Nuclear Reactor Dully Exposed Again.’ Oh, no! The fuel rods are exposed! Ho! Oh! What are we supposed to conclude from this? You have to. There’s a cumulative record from people like this. I’m just trying to help you discern and understand how I observe these things, how I watch it, how I digest it, and how little of it I believe. I believe more of what I see, footage-wise, than what I hear or read being reported. You can’t deny what you’re seeing. It’s when I start reading the stuff that they write accompanying it or so forth that I instinctively begin scratching my head.”
Hold your nose and read the full text here.
This morning The New York Times, with reporters at the scene, described the dangers of the fuel rods pooh-poohed by Limbaugh, above. Says the NYT, “If any of the spent fuel rods in the pools do indeed catch fire, nuclear experts say, the high heat would loft the radiation in clouds that would spread the radioactivity. ‘It’s worse than a meltdown,’ said David A. Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer at the Union of Concerned Scientists who worked as an instructor on the kinds of General Electric reactors used in Japan. ‘The reactor is inside thick walls, and the spent fuel of Reactors 1 and 3 is out in the open.’ …”Depending on the freshness of the spent fuel, Mr. Lochbaum said, the water in an uncooled pool would start to boil in anywhere from days to a week. The water would boil off to a dangerous level in another week or two. Once most of the fuel is exposed, he said, it can catch fire. If the spent fuel is a few months old, most of the iodine 131 — one of the most dangerous radioactive byproducts in spent fuel — will have decayed into harmless forms. But the cesium 137 in the spent fuel has a half-life of 30 years, meaning it would take about two centuries to diminish its levels of radioactivity down to 1 percent. It is cesium 137 that still contaminates much land in Ukraine around the Chernobyl reactor, which suffered a meltdown in 1986.” Read the full story here and learn the science of a nuclear reactor meltdown here.
I’m not optimistic that we can have an adult conversation as long as there are greedy people whose aim is to undermine the truth to achieve their self-serving ends. So in that sense, I don’t believe it matters one whit who runs for president. It’s calming to think that a Mitch v. Barack contest would be all about the issues that matter to Americans, and that everyone would be honest, intelligent and true to his values. As tempting as it is to hope for a clownish, unelectable candidate on the Republican side — Palin, Bachman, Huckabee – or a bloodless cold fish you want to stick a fork in, like Mitt Romney, even I’m not that cynical.
I think we should attempt the adult conversation, even when the swirling forces of unreason are upon us. It may be the only way to prevent Rome from burning.