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July 27, 2006

Idea of the Day

Molly Ivins:

Bill Moyers has been grappling with how to fit moral issues to political issues ever since he left Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and went to work for Lyndon Johnson in the teeth of the Vietnam War. Moyers worked for years in television, seriously addressing the most difficult issues of our day. He has studied all different kinds of religions and different approaches to spirituality. He's no Holy Joe, but he is a serious man. He opens minds -- he doesn't scare people. He includes people in, not out. And he sees through the dark search for a temporary political advantage to the clear ground of the Founders. He listens and he respects others.

Do I think Bill Moyers can win the presidency? No, that seems like a very long shot to me. The nomination? No, that seems like a very long shot to me.

Then why run him? Think, imagine, if seven or eight other Democratic candidates, all beautifully coiffed and triangulated and carefully coached to say nothing that will offend anyone, stand on stage with Bill Moyers in front of cameras for a national debate … what would happen? Bill Moyers would win, would walk away with it, just because he doesn't triangulate or calculate or trim or try to straddle the issues. Bill Moyers doesn't have to endorse a constitutional amendment against flag burning or whatever wedge issue du jour Republicans have come up with. He is not afraid of being called "unpatriotic." And besides, he is a wise and a kind man who knows how to talk on TV.

I've always found Moyers writings and speeches to be closer to prayers than essays, appeals to our better angels rather than for our grudging votes. When I'm depressed with the state of the country or feel overtaken by the enmities rather than the values that animate politics, I crack open Moyers on America to refresh my perspective. I would love to see him run, the race could truly benefit from a conscience candidate. And so, incidentally, could the country.

July 27, 2006 | Permalink

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Comments

Sure, put him on stage. His passionate twaddle would certainly liven things up. Just don't expect it to do any good. As Ms. Molly correctly points out, he doesn't triangulate. You've got to triangulate to win.

Posted by: ostap | Jul 27, 2006 10:59:49 AM

I don't think you need to triangulate to win at all -- in fact, I'd argue that this is why the discourse has moved so far to the right. The Dems triangulate to the center, the GOP move their positions further to the right, and the entire debate pushes rightward. The GOP doesn't triangulate and they win -- it's that simple.

I'd like to see Moyers up there just because the press would lend credence to his thoughts even if he wasn't perceived as a "real candidate". Kucinich tried to get ideas out there, but the media ignored him because he wasn't perceived as a "real candidate" (and it a lot of ways, he was trying to do the same things that Ivins wants Moyers to do). The press might actually cover Moyers because he's already got a lot of respectibility in the media that would be hard to ignore.

Posted by: NonyNony | Jul 27, 2006 11:09:20 AM

Hmmmm, I'm trying to think if there was a candidate in the Dem primaries last time who did what Ivens wants Moyers to do. Something's coming to me. Little guy, kind of funny looking. Eastern European ethnic name. I'm thinking that, although he didn't triangulate and he passionately addressed most of the issues the progressives of the party claim to care about (anti-Iraq war, pro-environment), he didn't have too big an impact on effecting the debate. Is the party ready for Kucinich II, to demonstrate again just how middle of the road we really are?

Posted by: mrgumby2u | Jul 27, 2006 11:31:53 AM

The thing is Kucinich (and I've been a supporter since the boy mayor days) simply doesn't have the gravitas. His heart is in the right place. But I think Moyers would be more successful in getting the issues talked about and debated. The disrepect shown towards Kucinich by the media, an elected Congressman, was breathtaking (looking at you Wolf Blitzer).

Posted by: a-train | Jul 27, 2006 11:52:11 AM

ostap, ostap otap

two words: George Bush. He's the argument for why you are wrong.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 27, 2006 12:25:02 PM

Hillary Clinton's got to be praying for Moyers to run. His support certainly wouldn't come from her. It would come from the candidates who might actually make a break with the DC Cool Kidz--Feingold and Edwards and Clark.
When are we going to stop fantasizing about candidates who could never win?

Posted by: RonThompson | Jul 27, 2006 12:56:58 PM

Conscience candidates are pointless, and end up having no effect on the debate because no one thinks they have any shot at winning. See Alan Keyes.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jul 27, 2006 1:02:02 PM

again - see George bush for why all the triangulators are wrong. you know its easy to keep saying that character doesn't matter, but you should really have to be able to prove your assertion at some point. bush won, rightly or wrongly, on the perception that he was a man of character. rather than directly addressing that reality, we keep hearing- no, no- that's not what helps people win. reagan by the way also proves you wrong. clinton was the abberation, not the other way around.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 27, 2006 2:15:19 PM

For the record, I made a lame attempt to get Corzine to nominate him to the vacated NJ Senate seat on an interim basis, thinking that in his one year+ in office he could make a difference and show up the idiocy of Senatorial Democrats. Alas, no luck.

Posted by: Marshall | Jul 27, 2006 2:57:20 PM

W did in fact triangulate. He made a few bows in the direction of the fundamentalist right, but he also ran heavily on his Compassionate Conservative views, which at the time I (correctly, it turns out) took to mean that he was not a Reaganite but instead someone who would leave the nanny state in place, that he had no intention of attacking Big Government but instead would let it fester on, untouched.

And as it turns out, not only is he most assuredly not an economic conservative, he's also a war-mongering incompetent with dangerous views on the power of the Presidency.

Posted by: ostap | Jul 27, 2006 3:36:02 PM

compassionate conservatism wasn't about triangulation so much as it was a way to emphasize the same values in a different way. triangulation is the absence of any value outside of sticking one's finger to the wind to see where the electorate is. two very different thing. no on says in ones message one has to brand it one way or the other, but one should at least have a message beyond- i am to the left of whatever position the other guy just said. bush, for all his faults, has never really did that. its what people were enamoured by for 6 years. kerry got it right the flaw was that one can be 'certain and wrong' too. whereas the democratic triangulators ignore both questions for some alterverse version of how people view character. you can also be uncertain and wrong. which triangulators prove electorally because if you are going to be wrong, at least seem like you know what you are doing.

Posted by: akaison | Jul 27, 2006 4:00:07 PM

Uh, on the predicate that if asked Bill Moyers would indeed run for president...I love Bill, but, nah, ambassador or diplomat yes, but president no. He's probably to smart to get involved anyway.

Posted by: Steve Mudge | Jul 27, 2006 9:20:17 PM

compassionate conservatism wasn't about triangulation so much as it was a way to emphasize the same values in a different way.

This is silly. What about "Reformer with Results"? Go read the commentary leading up to his Presidential (s)election: it is replete with claims that he's a different kind of conservative, the sort who is building bridges to the Clintonism of the 90's. He may not have governed that way, but he sure as hell positioned himself that way in 200.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Jul 28, 2006 11:28:12 AM

compassionate conservatism wasn't about triangulation so much as it was a way to emphasize the same values in a different way. triangulation is the absence of any value outside of sticking one's finger to the wind to see where the electorate is.

Not to be flip, but... tomayto, tomahto. Those descriptions start from the assumption of honesty and good faith in the former and the reverse in the latter, but the thought processes of a triangulator and of the guy who came up with the phrase "compassionate conservative" wouldn't seem very different. They're both labels applied depending on whether the subject has been successfully cast as a "Washington insider" or an "outside-the-Beltway regular guy."

I think I agree with all the Monday morning quarterbacking about 2000, but I'm not so sure about 2004. And while reducing it to any one cause is a mistake, reducing it to "character good, triangulation bad" is an even bigger mistake than some other possibilities.

Posted by: Cyrus | Jul 28, 2006 12:05:02 PM

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