Salt Lake City Mayor and political activist Rocky Anderson and conservative firebrand and Fox News pundit Sean Hannity met on stage in Utah late Friday night to debate whether or not George Bush should be impeached and about the merits (or lack thereof) of the Iraq War. The format of the speech offered each man 30 minutes to outline their positions on the issue.
Mayor Anderson was up first and spent 30 minutes outlining the common values of all Americans and how the Bush Administration has systematically betrayed each and every one of the ideals all Americans hold dear. In a thoughtful, respectful and well-researched manner, Rocky offered written evidence, video proof and historical quotes and context to speak to the fact that Bush lied to get into the war, has mishandled the war, supports torture, lied about wire-tapping and has ruined the reputation of America.
In defense of the President, Sean Hannity spent the first few minutes of his speech making personal attacks against Rocky Anderson. The body of his speech was spent picking on liberals, showing video of John Kerry, Hillary Clinton and others "flip-flopping" on the war and he mounted no defense whatsoever for President Bush. Most of the speech had the same talking points as the talk he gave to Utah Valley State College (we've posted some clips of it here on our blog.) He then closed his speech with video of gassed Iraqi Kurds and calling for Rocky Anderson's impeachment.
The entire evening was a microcosm for the level of discourse in America right now.
People from all parties on the left are asking serious questions about why we went to war, why the Bush administration lied about it, why they insist on tools against terror that consist of terror and any of the hundreds of other issues raised by this rogue administration. Instead of rebutting any of the sound arguments brought forth, the conservatives (in this instance represented by Sean Hannity) proceed to wrap themselves up in an American flag, evoking images of 9/11 and widespread terror if we do anything other than what the president says.
How can we as a people have a competent national discussion about how to deal with these very serious issues if we can't get the other side to talk about them in a straightforward and honest manner? What's the use of raising questions to members of the Bush administration and their supporters if they're going to ignore them completely?
What can we do to raise the level of discussion in our country?
I don't know the answer. I have a few suggestions, but I don't know the answer.
1) Hold more public forums such as this. People need to see which side addresses the issues and which side dances around them. Liberal or conservative, people should see it.
2) Our congressional leaders need to subpoena officials in the administration to answer questions. And they need to ask the questions and dig deeper until they truly find the answers.
3) We need encourage people to start ignoring pundits (like Sean Hannity) that lower the level of discourse in our great nation. If they can't raise the bar on discourse in our country, we should cease paying attention to them and quit putting them on television.
This debate was enlightening to me on a number of levels and made me think deeply about the state of discourse in our country and forced me to formulate the above suggestions. But more importantly, what are your suggestions? I really want to know. Let's have a constructive conversation about this right here in the comments section.
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