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Opening Arguments

Remember a good argument?

This is the time of year when the Top 10 lists start rolling out. There will be the 10 biggest celebrities of the year and the 10 best new products. The other day I saw one on the 10 best toys.

And, of course, newspapers start rolling out their top 10 lists. You will find The News-Sentinel soon publishing the top 10 local stories of the year, along with lists for state news, national news, business news, sports and who knows what else.

This year, I thought the editorial page should play, too. So, as an end-of-the-year feature, the Evening Forum will publish the top 10 arguments of 2005 (and I'll probably also post them here). We've already started talking about what some of our selections might be, and we're asking others for their opinions, too. We ran something last Saturday for suggestions from readers, and I'd like the blogosphere to kick in as well.

A good argument doesn't have to be one in favor of a cause or effort you support. It just needs to be effective, based on one or more of several criteria. Was the argument especially eloquent for or against something in particular? Did it energize a political base or wake up the other side? Did it advance our understanding of a complicated issue or shed new light on an old controversy? Did it contribute to the elevation of our conversation about an important subject, helping replace tired old bromides with some fresh ideas? If we look back on it in a year or two, will it seem like an argument that became part of a turning point?

Based on those requirements, I can think of two national arguments that might belong in the top 10; since they reflect opposite sides of the same issue, they can't both be considered to be in service of a good cause, at least not by the same people. One is Rep. John Murtha's call for a pullout from Iraq; that clearly articulated what a lot of Democrats had been hinting at for months and forced some of them to speak out more forcefully. The other is President George Bush's response to Murtha, which laid out much more clearly than ever what Bush defines as victory in Iraq and how we might achieve it.

A good argument on the state level, I'd say, was the judge's decision shooting down sectarian prayers in the Indiana House. Whether or not you agree with his conclusion, a careful reading of the judge's ruling will show it to be meticulously researched, logically argued and well-written. And it's certainly sparked discussion of a much-watched issue. 

If you'd like to nominate an argument for the top 10 (and give your reasons), post a comment.

Posted in: Current Affairs