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Am I Missing Something?

January 9, 2008

I pay almost zero attention to politics, and the issues of the day, and the candidates. I’m as close to a-political as anyone I know. So I was surprised to tune in to radio coverage of the democratic debate in New Hampshire the other night. Moderator Charles Gibson asked a question that was really more of a pointed suggestion, saying (something like) ‘I think that the greatest threat to the United States is the potential detonation of a nuclear device in one of our cities. If you as President knew that Al Qaeda had nuclear capability and was in Pakistan, would you take military action, with or without the permission or cooperation of that government?’.

Not only was I shocked to hear each of the four front-running candidates essentially allow that they would, in fact, take such action, but even more alarming:

–No one questioned the logic, or the causal assumptions of the question.

–No one commented on the moderator’s assumption that this is, in fact, the greatest threat to our country.

–No one noted that Al Qaeda is a decentralized organization– even if you killed half of the agents of such an unstructured group, you would not stop it. In so doing, in fact, you might well fuel its growth.

–No one mentioned that perhaps our tendency to unilaterally visit death and destruction on various (other) parts of the world may have something to do with the reason that people want to do the same thing to us. It seems to me that there was a very sober, very quiet time immediately following 9/11 when we as a country asked, ‘why would people hate us so much?’. Somehow, we seem to have ignored that important question.

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8 Responses to “Am I Missing Something?”

  1. Ryan says:

    Not much love for the moderator here, either. Clearly, the greatest threat to our country is that any of the candidates currently running for President would actually get to take the office.

    Unfortunately, I don’t see any way to get around that particular threat.

  2. Liz says:

    In the movie Men in Black there is an exchange between Will Smith’s charater and Tommy Lee Jones’s charater. Soon to be Agent J (Smith) asks K (Jones) why the MIN don’t just tell people about the aliens. J says people are smart. K respons, “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.”

    Charles Gibson and the canidates were talking to “the people” not a person.

  3. kate says:

    Mike! Holy crap! It’s politics. You’re so precious, to be expecting and applying logic. :)

    You have to wonder what the reaction would be — from the media, from the public — if someone responded in the ways you said. I’d love to see it! I hate the format of these debates — how short a time they get to respond, etc. It’s so frustrating to watch. And yet, if you (the viewer) can somehow let go of all of that critical thinking and logic stuff, endlessly entertaining.

  4. Ryan says:

    That’s my second favorite quote from that movie, Liz.

  5. Maggie says:

    I’m probably not as informed as I ought to be, but I’m feeling a little frustrated. Ron Paul usually does answer in the ways you’ve said. And I didn’t get to watch the democratic debate, but I would assume Kucinich would as well. Everybody ignores them. I have talked to (and read words from) so many people that are not happy with the front runners, but feel that voting for anyone else is futile. It seems to be a real percentage of voters, both Republican and Democrat. If all those people voted for the candidate they actually liked, the front runners might change. I don’t understand the game, and maybe that’s part of why I refuse to play.

  6. Anonymous says:

    To quote Rich Mullins: They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Of course, if you’re prone to quoting Mike Stavlund, as I’ve been in the habit of doing: Sometimes it’s just easier to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

    O.K. maybe the last one isn’t as on point, but it’s one of my favorite quotes. Tom D.M.

  7. Ryan says:


    Take a read of this. Paul isn’t news to a lot of people who are more active in party politics:

    To quote a commenter elsewhere on Paul: “If you’re a flake, it doesn’t matter if you have other ideas that are good.”

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