Donna Brazile is a "Democratic strategist" whose op-ed columns we run occasionally. One of the things that penetrated my Vicodin haze late last week was an observation she made that I inititially agreed with but since have had mixed feelings about:
I probably shouldn't say this; it's the definition of biting the hand that feeds me. So I'll say it just once, and hopefully all the newspapers and blogs and television and radio networks will hear: It's time to abolish punditry.
If a single move could restore civility to politics, that is it. Get rid of the left-vs.-right commentators who are just out scoring points for their team. This sort of opinion-mongering is not only boring and predictable, it is destructive of the truth. If your only credentials are "GOP shill" or "Democratic hack," you've no business cluttering up the airwaves or the op-ed pages. My momma always told me that if you don't know what you're talking about, it's best to keep your mouth shut. That's good advice.
An Indianapolis TV station does a weekly show called "Indiana Week in Review" that the local PBS station reruns on Sundays. I like to watch it just to make sure there weren't any big state issues I missed during the week. But it's more and more of a struggle to get through the whole program. In addition to the moderaor and two journalists, the panel contains a top Republican and a top Democrat as "analysts." But they don't analyze anything. They just recite the predictable party crap -- you know exactly what's going to come out of their mouths before they even say it. Half the show is wasted on the Republican bashing Democrats and the Democrat bashing Republicans. I've often wished they'd replace the two of them with two more journalists.
But I wonder how much better off we'd be. We can at least count on the hacks and shills to give us the official party line, which is an important part of the debate, whether we like it or not. Politics seeps into everything these days, and to ignore it is to miss a big part of the picture. If we rely on journalists, we risk picking up their prejudices and preconceptions -- the party line disguised as something else. Brazile's answer is to substitute people with genuine expertise for the pundits -- those such as academics and economists and scientists. But in case you haven't noticed, politics colors their work, too. And many issues -- illegal immigration, to name just one -- hinge as much on our world views as they do on any factual underpinnings. Maybe we should keep the left-vs.-right commentators but supplement them with a philosopehr or two