Both Sides Now: Debating Vaccine, Jews & Inequality

09/18/2011 08:11 pm ET

Arianna is back in the BSN saddle after the Summer (metaphoric nod of our cowboy hat to the rise of Perry) and has consensus and differences with Mary Matalin on various hot topics. But then that's the goal of a radio program that doesn't allow mere monologues or screeds but seeks the defense of ideas. (See below for audio of show.)

*On Science, Vaccination and the GOP: In an interesting reversal of expected roles, it's Arianna who thinks Rick Perry looks good (if you turn off the sound and like "John Wayne archetypes") as she also blasts his "crony capitalism"; Mary acknowledges that he was "not a superstar in the debates... and broke a lot of rules."

We then hear Gov. Huntsman warned rivals about sounding anti-science which will turn off voters. Is the HPV vaccine controversy in Texas an example? Mary takes the Bachmann position that it should be a personal and family decision not mandated by an Executive Order and that her daughters would tell her if they were sexually active. Arianna largely agrees, saying it should be a "personal choice." To maintain "both sides," the host, an admitted X among the Y's, replies that the CDC believes that the vaccine can reduce the 4000 cervical cancers a year and that STD is not like smoking alone in a room but like measles or second-hand smoke. [Salk vaccine? Kids tell their parents? Partners don't know they're carriers.] For good measure, Mary adds, "then vaccinate men!"

Back to the presidential contest: In an example of what T. S. Eliot called "the greatest treason, to do the right thing for the wrong reason," Perry does come down on the side of saving women's lives here though Bachmann scores when she attacks Merck money as the reason.

*On Obama & Jews in Queens & Israel:
While the mainstream media gang up to tear down Obama over the loss of the 9th C.D. in NYC, Sen. Schumer (who earlier held the seat) argues that was not and is not a "bellwether district". The women agree that it certainly doesn't look good for Obama to lose a seat held 88 years by Dems but there is also the acknowledgment that local variables - the Weiner fallout, the party machine choosing a candidate who doesn't live in district, and Koch opposing a pro-Israel, Orthodox Jew over an anti-gay marriage Republican in order to send a message to a President supports direct negotiations based on '67 borders with land swaps. Not a situation likely to be duplicated nationally in 14 months.

On the related issue of Israel, there is consensus that it's in new peril given its sparring with Turkey over the flotilla raid, with peace partner Egypt over the attack on the embassy in Cairo, and given the impending vote on a Palestinian State in the U.N.. Mary acknowledges that policy toward Israel generally has been pretty consistent over three presidencies but notes that symbolically many Jewish voters are unsettled by Obama. Arianna agrees that the U.S. should veto an attempt to impose a Palestinian state but should also then make sure that negotiations toward such a state keep going. And she doesn't see a significant falloff for Obama here. The host and Ms. Matalin bet a New Orleans Po' Boy lunch over whether Obama will break 80% against Perry if a Texas Exceptionalist wanting to return the country "to its Christian traditions" is the GOP nominee.

*On Poverty & Inequality: Here we sharpen differences and don't bridge them. We hear from former Labor Secretary Reich about far more income and wealth going to the top 1%, but Mary dismisses that "pedestrian liberal view [based on] class warfare." We then hear from Robert Rector of The Heritage Foundation who argues that more poor people have TVs, computers and air conditioning than go hungry - Arianna dismisses that as smacking of "welfare queen" cartoons, adding that homeless shelters and food banks are now seeing more people and more families.

Then Arianna jokes that economic mobility in America is worse than in France, which is like saying that America "is ahead of France in croissants and afternoon sex." The women discuss why always-growing middle class incomes and the manufacturing jobs of prior decades are gone; one reason, in Arianna's phrase, "the financialization" of the economy.

*Quick Takes: Jackie, Prisons, Warren & Libya: Mary and Arianna concur that a) Jackie Kennedy is amazing and revealing in tapes of her candidly dishing on various people in just disclosed tapes with the late Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and b) that our prisons are too full of non-violent drug inmates and something has to change - we discuss the choice of flogging as a cheaper deterrent, as author Peter Moskos argues in his facetiously titled, In Defense of Flogging.

While Mary admires Elizabeth Warren, she wonders whether she'll end up a Moynihan liberal (good) or a Massachusetts liberal (bad) in order to win the nomination. Arianna is an unbridled admirer who thinks that the scholar and bureaucrat can make the conversion to a strong candidacy because she's an Oklahoma grandmother who's smart and empathetic... a Brown-Warren race could rival the presidential contest."

Last, after so much conservative taunting about "leading from behind", has Obama's multilateral, non-combat-troops approach been vindicated in Libya? Mary says that she supported Obama in this case even though it's based on a "no-doctrine doctrine" and, worryingly, "the bad guys are taking over again." Arianna believes that the President's approach has been vindicated since Qaddafi is out without U. S. combat troops and without civilian deaths that could, again, have created enmity against America in the Muslim world.

Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now, which is powered by the American Federation of Teachers.

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