2008 is a year of change – but what change? The candidates for President each have their prescription for a healthy America. And each of them has suggested valid, workable solutions to the myriad of problems facing this great nation. But we must be careful – in our zeal to achieve we sometimes miss the real mark – we overshoot – we commit to a program, only to find later that there was something better.
Debates are not just about who has the best message at the moment, or who is most witty or clever, or who thinks fastest on their feet. And debates are not about winning or losing – much to the chagrin of campaign supporters and media pundits. Debates, in a pure form, would lend themselves to better understanding, to sharing and understanding ideas, to building consensus.
While none of the candidates will admit it – each has been influenced by the others. I would go so far to say, and I have, that the two political Parties have influenced each other. In this regard they are all to be commended.
One of the worst things a candidate can say to win my favor is, ‘No, Never!’ On the surface it looks like a person of conviction and will; a person willing to stand up for their belief system. Kissinger once said, and I have to paraphrase, “…You can negotiate technique, but you can never negotiate principle… ” I like that approach.
We should say “NO, Never!” when asked to compromise principle. But how about this. When asked about medical marijuana Romney said, “My administration will never legalize marijuana!” He was forceful and resolute – qualities that I admire in people. But I think this is an example of unwillingness to negotiate technique. People are truly suffering from a variety of maladies that the active ingredient in marijuana seems to relieve. I agree that smoking marijuana is not good and should not be sanctioned. But is there some compromise? Is there a means of synthesizing the active ingredient, THC, into a more acceptable form of medical treatment? I don’t know. I only know that we should be careful what we say to win a few votes.
Everyone should have health care. That is a notion that all candidates agree on. To blatantly say that we will never have nationalized health care, or we will not allow private Corporations to decide our health care policy are both futile statements of uncompromising technique. We agree in principle – so a hard line on technique only serves narrow political purposes.
This same argument applies to the war in Iraq. In principle we are fighting terrorism – we all agree on this. But was the technique of invading Iraq beneficial in the war on terror? This is a matter of great dispute. I hold with those who believe we have really angered an entire region – thus promoting their justification for terror. But that is water under the bridge. We are in Iraq. What principles or purpose of foreign policy do the technical remedies support? It is not just about HOW, but more importantly about WHY.
Media pundits like Chris Matthews and Tim Russert think they are clever when trying to pin a candidate to a particular technique. Matthews and Russert do not understand the concept of principle. Russert chased Hillary Clinton all over the stage on the minor technique of granting illegal immigrants driver’s licenses. She tried to talk about principle and he accused her of not answering the question. The problem was that he was asking the wrong question – but it plays well for Nielson Ratings and that is his driving principle.
The problem in nailing down technique is that a better technique might come along. The principle remains the same – but we might find better solutions to addressing the need. If we are committed to a technique rather than a principle we set ourselves up for failure.
We must be careful what we ask for – we might just get it.