Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bradley on Target in His Indictment of Political Process

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bradley on Target in His Indictment of Political Process

Article excerpt

Traveling briefly in my native state of North Carolina recently, I found that old friends were far more interested in Bill Bradley's unexpected withdrawal from the Senate than in the headline-hogging hurricane at their doorstep.

Why? After reading Bradley's retirement statement, including his caustic assessment of the state of party politics, and watching his interview on the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour," I am convinced that their instinct is right. This is more than the usual midsummer political blip.

Cynics, who abound in my trade, say that Bradley is escaping the Senate just ahead of the hangman. He nearly lost his seat to Christine Todd Whitman in 1990, they say, and could well tumble in the expected Republican tide next year. Given the volatility of political fortunes, no one knows what will happen a year or more from now. But in the dog days, this passes for journalistic wisdom.

What strikes me about Bradley's exit, however, is not escapism but transparent earnestness - as usual. There is a perfectionism, a craftsmanship, about Bradley that makes him both restless and relentless - whether the task at hand is basketball or tax reform or the overhang of Third World debt.

So far beyond the usual level of political penetration does this quality carry him that some audiences find him just a shade ponderous. But when he tells us that he has been renewing his sense of where he is, I take him at his word.

Bradley is assuredly the first certifiable heavyweight in American elective politics to say outright that the system as we know it today is "broken." One may fill in his own definition of just what the word "broken" means. Mine is that much of what dissatisfies us today can be charged one way or another to the ascendancy of television. Its side effects on public life - passivity, superficiality, mendacity, the tendency to contrivance - are obvious. It offers every incentive to evasion and frivolity. But there is a need to conceal the obvious. Whatever their private conclusions, most electoral politicians scrambling for air time can't afford to insult the monster they woo. …

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