The Propriety of Responding to the President

Feeding into the WPRO ad, “Where do bloggers go….”, Dan Yorke brings up an interesting point. Why was there a need for a “Democrat response” to the Presidential speech on the status of the conflict in Iraq? Dan talked to Brown University’s Darrell West about it, and they came to the following conclusions:
1) There was never any sort of “opposition party” response to a televised Presidential address until the 1980’s (Ronald Reagan). Then, the argument was that the President could offer his side of a story without rebuttal. The networks acquiesced and began allowing a response to State of the Union addresses.
2) Over the years, and despite the removal of the so-called “Fairness Doctrine”, the networks continued the practice.
3) Now, it seems they’ve expanded the practice such that any Presidential address is effectively rebutted by the opposition. Even a speech offering an update on progress made in a war. Anyone ever here about the time Wendell Wilkie aired a rebuttal to one of FDR’s fireside chats? Didn’t think so.
Yorke’s point is that, since the networks are under no obligation to offer the rebuttal, they are being ideological activists by continuing to provide the opportunity. As such, the office of the President–regardless of whether a Democrat or Republican–is diminished. He can’t even get 5 minutes of breathing room to offer his case without the other side being able to take partisan political shots. Incidentally, it looked like ABC, CBS and NBC aired the Democratic response, but FOX did not (though FOXNEWS did, I think). That should stoke some fires.
I suppose this is of a piece of the broader trend towards diminishing the office of the President or that how some of us realize there was a time when politics really did stop at the waters edge.
On a side note, the best analysis of Sen. Reed’s retort comes from Kimberly Kagan:

Senator Jack Reed gave the Democratic response, and the contrast with Bush’s speech was striking to those who paid careful attention. Bush addressed the situation in Iraq with detail and nuance. He described varying situations on the ground in different, specific regions of the country, spoke of particular movements and individuals, and showed a grasp of the complexity and reality of the struggle. Reed spoke only in generalizations. He did not refer to any specific events, places, or individuals in Iraq. He spoke generally of a “Democratic plan” for withdrawal that sounded remarkably like the Baker-Hamilton plan, originally presented at the end of 2006 in a completely different operational context. The vagueness of his discussion of the situation and of his proposals contrasted starkly with the specificity even of Bush’s speech, to say nothing of the incredible complexity and detail evinced in the testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. That contrast highlights once more what is really the key question of the upcoming political debate over Iraq: Whom do the American people want to run this war, Congress or the people who know something about it?

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brassband
brassband
13 years ago

If our Democrat friends had any judgment at all, they would realize that an “opposition” speech in response to the President’s war message does their party very little good.
What was Reed’s message last night? It was simply opposition to President Bush — that’s it. Does that serve US interests abroad? Does it accomplish anything, other than giving some national exposure to a mid-level Democrat — and even then only exposure to those viewers who remain tuned in after the President is done.
I’d guess that if you polled public response to the Democrat’s message from last night, you wouldn’t even be able to find the patient’s pulse.

Rasputin-Khlyst
Rasputin-Khlyst
13 years ago

You conservatives can complain all you wish about Sen. Reed’s being allowed to enlighten the nation following Mr. Bush’s expected remarks to the American Public. Would you like some cheese with your whine? I believe in the Fairness Doctrine and believe it should be reintroduced into talk radio as well as respected in all media. After all, the psychological advertising principle that if you repeat a lie often enough it is considered truth is rampant in talk radio where the conservative talking points are repeated frequently and independent of truth. One basic requirement of Democracy is an informed public and the denial of an opportunity to present opposing viewpoints is basically anti-democratic. Of course the recent scientific studies demonstrating the conservatives’ inability to tolerate ambiguity does explain the discomfort the conservative has with differing viewpoints, as well as the older longstanding psychological studies of the Authoritarian Personality. Given this data it is easy to understand this blog’s discomfort and conservative radio ranters Dan Yorke’s displeasure with Sen. Reed opposing viewpoint being presented. It violates the basic biology of the conservative thought process and therefore demands conservative rejection and intolerance. Petraeus has all along preached how well the Iraqi War is going and was one of the cheerleaders who insisted Iraq had WMD before the American invasion and occupation. The ability to provide details that was so richly admired in this blog is little more than the psychopath’s ability to lie convincingly. Both he and Mr. Bush are as dependable as a flat tire. It is not the networks that have diminished the Presidency as you have suggest, it is Mr. Bush himself who has lowered the office below the popularity of a used car salesman. Get your facts straight. Maybe if you listened to more than one side of an… Read more »

Greg
Greg
13 years ago

I agree in the fairness doctrine as well, at least in concept if not in practice. That being said, I invite the Dems any time they would like to continue to show that they have no more ideas other than “Bush Sucks” and, after all this time, they still have nothing but the broadest of concepts to introduce to the American public.
Reminds me much of Kerry’s ‘Elect me and I’ll tell you my plans…’ gibberish.

Will
Will
13 years ago

Perhaps you’d like a side of Communism with your Fairness Doctrine, ma’am?
Fortunately, American society has evolved over time to the point where a market-based approach as to how we access media is the expected “norm,” by the vast majority of Americans; not a commie pinko one that wants to restrict freedom by silencing those who can’t make it on their own, because they are so unpopular that they can’t sell any ad space on their programs. Two words: Air America (PS The local commies have got to be seething over the “new” WHJJ line-up, but I digress).
Whether or not there is an “opposition response” is a somewhat moot point, as the networks are privately owned, and the government doesn’t “make” them carry anything that they don’t want to. It is what it is. Let Reed gibber all he wants. It was stale and very predictable stuff and could have been delivered by any liberal. There’s no “honor” in retreat in the face of evil, however they want to term it. I think the American people are smart enough to see through it. They’re just using him for his military background. If he’s the “best” they can offer, we’re in better shape for 2008 than I thought!
PS Never underestimate the national Democratic Party’s nominee — whomever he or she may be — to politically implode on a moment’s notice (see: George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry, etc., etc.). I am PRAYING it’s Hillary. 🙂

brassband
brassband
13 years ago

I’m all for unfiltered equal time for the Democrats. In fact, I’d say the best way to defeat the Democrats is to make sure that the public hears their message quite clearly.
My point was that I don’t think that Reed’s statement helps the Democrats at all. If anything, it probably helped President Bush . . . anyone who listened to Reed could see that there was no alternative offered in his statement, just general opposition. You don’t win elections with that kind of stance.
Will’s point about Democrat’s candidates’ tendency to self-destruct is absolutely correct; these Dem candidates have almost always been damaged by Republican “attack ads” whose chief feature was to simply replay video tape of the Democrat candidate making indefensible statements.
If I were running the Republican opposition, my strategy with regard to the Democrat candidates would be — Keep ’em talkin’ and keep the microphones open.

Rasputin-Khlyst
Rasputin-Khlyst
13 years ago

These comments prove my points regarding intolerance and inablilty to process divergent information. No one remembers the POLITICAL suggestions of Sen. Reed?
Reaffirmation of your conclusion is not sufficient for proving your point. If you missed the points raised by Sen. Reed then google the rebuttal.
Also references to “commie pinko” etc. have nothing to do with this discourse and as for the FREE MARKET myth, perhaps someday I will write a series of essays on that!

Monique
Editor
13 years ago

“Incidentally, it looked like ABC, CBS and NBC aired the Democratic response, but FOX did not (though FOXNEWS did, I think).”
Damn vast right wing conspiracy.
“… my strategy with regard to the Democrat candidates would be — Keep ’em talkin’ and keep the microphones open.”
Especially Hillary. Power to the people!

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