The sad state of political discourse, Oct. 6, 2005

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 14, 2005

I'm hearing a lot lately about people being fed up with what has been described as the decidedly fanatical, right-wing bent of our editorial page features.

This has always been an interesting dilemma for me. With God as my witness, in two decades of doing this, I've strived for balance. Invariably, readers don't see it that way. In conservative Hopewell and Mena, Ark., readers saw me as some crazed, wild-eyed, Bolshevik. While in the somewhat bluer working class city of Fairmont, W.Va., people there thought I was some kind of Brown Shirt after I wrote an editorial critical of something Sen. Robert Byrd had done.

The bottom line is, people see things through their particular prism. You can't please everyone.


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Anyway, on Wednesday, I struck up a conversation with a friend who owns a small business in Suffolk. He, too, was tired of what had been appearing in our editorial page.

"What is wrong with people?" he said. "Can they not see what's going on [ with the war, rampant cronyism, etc]. I guess moderates just don't write."

While he was frustrated with the administration n as a surprising number of people in conservative Suffolk are, according to our Web polls n he's equally frustrated with the Democrats who are offering no opposition or leadership.

But more than that, he lamented the fact that you cannot even discuss politics with people anymore, particularly those who blindly follow everything the Bush administration does.

"They invariably end up yelling," he said. He's in a position not unlike Michael Jordan who, when asked why he didn't speak out more for civil rights, he said he didn't want to offend white people, who buy Nikes, too. Bush admirers also buy his product, so he doesn't want to alienate people.

That's a shame. There was a time in this nation when we not only could, but were expected to have difference of opinion where politics are concerned. Now, it's the age of bully politics, which started with Newt Gingrich and has been made into an art form by people like Tom "The Hammer" Delay and Karl "The Architect" Rove. Nowadays, you "are either for us or against us.' In their eyes, if you disagree with Halliburton getting no-bid contracts, or believe it may not have been a good idea to the U.S. to illegally invade a sovereign nation that was no threat to us, you're "liberal," "unpatriotic," and no different from a member of Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, the Sunni Insurgency or Kim Jong Il.

And that stinks. Hopefully, this era won't last long and we will be able to once again be able to engage in civil debate about things that matter.