The Red and the Blue

By Wall, James M. | The Christian Century, February 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Red and the Blue


Wall, James M., The Christian Century


COLUMNISTS have the luxury of saying what mainstream media often ignore or brush aside. Within journalistic limits of fairness, accuracy and good taste, the columnist gets to stop and stare at the underside of news reports, which explains why columnists are especially valuable in a polarized political environment.

Red State voters have George Will, Cal Thomas, Bill Safire or David Brooks to explain the definition of torture or justify the White House use of God talk. Blue Staters have Molly Ivins, Maureen Dowd, E. J. Dionne and Tom Oliphant to point out outrageous inconsistencies in the current conservative rhetoric. (Newcomers to this column might conclude that there is a bias in this description, and they would be right.)

These ruminations on columnists come to mind as we go through yet another "grand moment" in Iraq's "move toward democracy," an election conducted under severely restricted conditions of a military occupation, a moment that joins the long list of Iraqi "successes" like the fall of the Saddam statue, the capture of Saddam and the transfer of power last summer from U.S. forces to Iyad Allawi, a longtime CIA employee.

The purpose of this particular column, however, is not to focus on the Iraqi election, but to point to some of the writers whose work I have found valuable on the Blue side of the political/cultural debate. Think of it as balm for the defeated, or--if you won in November--accept it as compassion for the vanquished.

Read Red columnists to understand how Bush backers so easily adjust to the president's shifting explanations for invading Iraq. Red columnists also help us understand what the Bush White House means when it says that 40 years from now our Social Security system will collapse unless the government takes advantage of the public's desire to gamble with funds intended as a security guarantee for the elderly.

Since news is "made" by officials in power, Red columnists will have an easier time of it for at least the next four years, as interpretations from official sources are automatically given credence by the public. All the more reason why Blue columnists like Maureen Dowd of the New York Times play such an important role in the political and cultural wars. Without Dowd, the public might have missed an important part of the Armstrong Williams story.

Williams is the conservative columnist who now admits he made a "mistake" in not disclosing the fact that he was paid nearly a quarter of a million dollars by President Bush; Education Department to say nice things about the administration's "No Child Left Behind" program. President Bush later denounced the practice of hiring journalists to push government programs in their "independent" columns. …

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