Sunday, July 10, 2005

Tom Oliphant on Hugh Hewitt's show

Folks on both sides of the debate on the war on terror really owe it to themselves to read the transcript of Tom Oliphant's appearance on the Hugh Hewitt radio talk show. Oliphant is most definitely on the left side of the spectrum and Hewitt is most definitely that far to the right. They clearly disagree on several issues, but there's 2 things about this interview I found extremely illuminating. Let's deal with the specific one, first.

Oliphant had some great advice for his fellow lefties:

::::::::HH: Tom, let me give you a theory here. The west, maybe we can agree on this. The west slept through the early viral years of Islamist fanaticism.

TO: No question.

HH: And as a result, it went from a few bands of isolated jihadists, to a worldwide movement, headquarter's Kabul. And it got followers throughout western Europe, and it had followers throughout the Middle East, and we slept through the transfer in Palestine of a secular political movement that was vicious and violent, into one that had a religious inspired counterpart in Hamas. And that that went viral on us as well. And then after 9/11, we woke up collectively. Forget the partisanship. And now the question is what do we do when it's gone viral around world? And what I am distressed by, is that the left seems more interested in bleeding Bush than in killing terrorists.

TO: Well, on that last point, Hugh, I represent a minority that would agree with you. I think every sentence spent on President Bush is wasted breath. And it doesn't unite the country, but much more importantly, it doesn't solve the problem. And what I wish my friends on the left would do more of, is talk about the present and the future in very specific ways, designed to get this right. A classic example is in intelligence. I believe that something is not quite right, nearly four years after 9/11, and that we all need, regardless of party, to examine this structure that's emerged in the last few years, much more carefully, to understand better why it is not really working yet.

That's good advice. And there's a collary for my friends on the right that's equally good advice: forget about Bill Clinton. Yes, the 1990's were on his watch. Yes, there were terrorist attacks that were part of the larger war that we, as Americans, ignored until 9/11. Loudly denouncing Bill Clinton 5 years after the man left office is a waste and a distraction we can ill afford. The important point to debate is how to fix the problem, not lay the blame. It's truly difficult to do that, I know, when the other side is more focused on throwing mud than in discussing issues, but someone's got to stop with the "yeah, but your guy was/is worse" rhetoric. Clinton has been a non-issue for me for some time. Let him go. Let's talk about getting the issue fixed.

The second, broader, part of this that I found interesting was something I'll be a lot of us didn't even catch the first time. Here we have 2 guys on opposite sides of the political fence - partisans, I think they'd not object to being called - discussing a very contentious issue and they were polite. The word "nazi" didn't show up once and no one's views got compared to genocide. They spoke about the issues and they addressed what's known, what's not known, and where/how we can proceed from here. It can be done and it must be done if this nation is to move forward.