Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Both Sides Now

Monday night, I went to see David Gergen speak at a Cleveland State Town Hall series. I've written over the last 2-3 years about attending a number of these and so far have only been disappointed once. Monday was not one of these disappointments.

Overall, I'm a big fan of Mr. Gergen. He's reasonably well spoken and educated. He has a plethora of experience behind what he says and does, and even though he's only worked for one democratic president (Clinton), and three republicans (Nixon, Ford, Reagan), he comes across as fairly non-partisan. I'm sure has a side, but he hides it better than others.

The topic was to be Re-calibrating U.S. Policies and for the most part he stayed on task. He started out with some anecdotes on how he came to work for his first White House (Nixon) but for the most part kept current with Obama and his administration - and the surrounding climate.

I can say the lecture was better than the following Q&A, but there was some harsh realities and yet some rays of hope in there as well.

After his anecdotes, Gergen went into how the U.S. is in decline and has been for quite some time. He talked about this being the time of Asia - and how not only will they be at the table (China expected to pass the U.S economically in 2027 and Japan doing the same by 2050), it is where at the table would the U.S. be in the future - if at all!

He talked about the collapse of empires and it is never a question of 'if' but a question of 'when'. And how quickly it all happens.

Overall, he thinks Obama is doing a good job, but not a great one. He clearly thinks Obama does better with foreign policy than domestic issues - and he's right. But he also thinks that Obama was dealt a very very bad deck and he's doing what he can - to a degree. Gergen attributes Obama's foreign successes to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Robert Gates, but attributes Barack's willingness to keep them in place upon the transition from Bush.

I agree with Gergen that Obama needs to hit the reset button and lose some cabinet and staff member and change things up, if he wants to salvage his presidency, let alone extend it. I also agree that he needs to get some advisers that are or were CEOs. Obama currently has zero. Almost all other leaders have had a number on hand as a resource.

Gergen clearly sees the issues with politics today not being what it was. You could brand him an old coot for saying the Boomers ruined politics, but he's probably correct. We are a nation of selfish folks who have had a number of things handed to us.

He said the post WWII era saw such horrific things that even in their disagreements, at 5pm, they'd sit down with a drink and talk. That is no longer the case and no one leaves any room for compromise.

He knows media is a factor as well - that they all have the far left and rights on each show and there is no civility and no chance at true discussion. He knows media doesn't see that as good TV, when in fact it true dialogue would be GREAT TV (my thought not Gergen's). For the times I've seen him on CNN and MSNBC, Gergen has always been the voice of reason - not that anyone wants to hear that (allegedly).

One thing Gergen talked about was that at this stage, politicians were not going to make a difference. He thinks it next to impossible in this climate. He thinks it has to be brought upon by the individuals, but he didn't go so far to say things like the 'tea-bag' stuff. He expounded on volunteering and actually - social media.

He went on at length that Obama's campaign really grew via social media sites. I don't remember this being a big factor, but I was a Hillary man, to be honest. I still use Howard Dean as that starter of this with his fund-raising, though in 2004, Facebook and Twitter weren't truly around for change.

It did get me thinking, if a billion morons tried to something other than get Betty White on SNL (really, what the fuck was that about???), and actually focused on something that mattered, maybe, just maybe there would be change.

One other thing he said, but never truly implied or inferred it (or did he?) was the one and only time things in our nation were this contentious, there was a Civil War. He just left it at that.

Save the last paragraph, I'm not sure Gergen told much of the audience anything they didn't know, but the insider insight was nice. And it was nice to hear with out having to pick pieces parts out of between another screaming guest of host - and have someone be able to finish their thoughts.

I like to think I came away a bit more informed, but then I heard the mature women in front of me saying "oh, I never see him on CNN, my TV never leaves FOX!".

Honey, why are you here then?, is what I wanted to say. You're clearly not open to new ideas and have a myopic view of the political world. I'd rather you be a shut in than spew your on-sided vile everywhere.

I swear that old battle-ax almost ruined the evening for me.

Song by: Joni Mitchell


cb said...

How can you like a guy named after a pickle?

Birdie said...

Speaking as a political moderate, the polarization I see in the media frightens me. Both liberals and conservatives are guilty of stirring up emotions for nothing more than ratings. Olbermann, Beck, Maddow, Limbaugh, O'Reilly, ad nauseum need to have the plug pulled until they know how to have reasonable discourse. The media these days runs on fear. It sells. And it will be our downfall.