Thursday, January 04, 2007

# Posted 8:23 AM by Ariel David Adesnik  

A SUNDAY MORNING FOR JERRY FORD: Yes, it is very late in the week to do a Sunday morning round-up. But it was an unusual Sunday morning, since both NBC and CBS replaced the cross-examination format with panel discussions of President Ford's legacy. ABC featured John Edwards and his wife Elizabeth.
NBC: The panel consisted of Bob Woodward and Tom Brokaw. Total consensus (Russert included) on the correctness of Ford's pardon. I think the discussion would've been much better served by Russert playing devil's advocate and illustrating with historical quotations why the pardon was so controversial. In addition, Russert should've been prepared to challenge Woodward's assertion that Ford and Nixon were intimate friends. There was no need for the confrontational style of your average week on Meet the Press, but history needs opposing viewpoints as well.

CBS: Having four participants, only two of them journalists, broadened the discussion and provided more contrast. The panelists directly challenged Woodward's view about the Nixon-Ford friendship, as well as other issues. But again, the pardon remained central and the consensus on its merits complete. I agree the pardon was the most important single decision of the Ford presidency, but I really think the audience would've been better served by a better illustration of why it was so controversial (instead of just references in passing to how it was once unpopular but now we all agree.)

John Edwards: B+. I disagree with much of what the man says, but at least he says it. He was a lot more candid than most talking heads, even if he was more than ready (like everyone else) to resort to vague platitudes when he could get away with it. Edwards said he was ready to make a clear choice in favor of social "investment" (i.e. spending) over deficit reduction. He has ambitious plans for universal health care.

Surprisingly, Stephanopoulos gave him a pass on foreign policy, especially with regard to Iraq. But there was one question that really brought out a revealing answer. Stephanopoulos asked whether he was correct to observe that Edwards places a strong emphasis on morality in foreign policy, even though the fashion now among Democrats and other Bush critics is realpolitik. Edwards said Stephanopoulos was absolutely correct and pointed to Darfur as an illustration of how moral action is necessary. However, when Stephanopoulos asked if US troops should get involved, Edwards backed down and said we should provide air support at most.

But then came the really interesting part. Edwards immediately provided other examples of where moral concerns and moral action are imperative, specifically the global struggle to stop HIV and fight poverty. I agree that those are very important causes, but Edwards' response perfectly illustrates something Peter Beinart said about liberal moralism and foreign policy. According to Beinart, liberals refuse to see the War on Terror through a moral prism of good and evil. Instead, they focus on non-controversial good works such as fighting poverty and HIV. Which is all right and good by itself, but prevents liberals from establishing a values-based foundation for their approach to the most important issues on the national security agenda.
See ya next week.
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