David Broder, the so-called dean of the Washington punditocracy, is widely known to be a process man. His goal is to translate insider Washington’s voice to the masses. Petty substantive concerns like the war in Iraq, criminality in the executive branch or even growing economic inequality in America just aren’t his cup of tea.
No, what gets Broder’s blood pumping is anything that besmirches the aesthetics of insider Washington: he seems much more upset, for example, by what he regards as ugly partisan bickering over the senseless killing in Bush’s war in Iraq, then he does over the senseless killing itself.
But then, Broder, after all, is also the guy who found Bill Clinton’s blow job a much more unforgivable crime than Bush’s actions in disingenuously leading the nation into a disastrous war. “He came in here and he trashed the place,” Broder said of Clinton, “and it’s not his place.” Whereas, after all, all Bush did was to get a lot of people needlessly killed, waste hundreds of billions of dollars, increase the risk of terrorism to the nation and reduce America’s standing in the world to an historic low (and that’s just talking about Iraq; Bush’s crimes, of course, go far beyond that).
But to Broder it’s no contest: sullying the “honor” of insider Washington was by far the greater crime.
So it’s perhaps not surprising that we should find our man Broder absolutely giddy over the thought of a so-called fusion candidacy, in which people of differing political parties join together as presidential and vice presidential candidates in an independent run for the White House. In his most recent column, for example, Broder is all a-titter about the possibility of a Michael Bloomberg/Chuck Hagel run.
As a number of bloggers have noted, Broder appears remarkably disinterested in what policy positions Bloomberg and Hagel hold, let alone the fact that the two men disagree broadly on almost all political issues. None of this matters: what’s important is that civility, as Broder defines it, return to the process; under this worldview, partisan political struggles aren’t battles over ideas, but unseemly childlike squabbles that make inside the Beltway cocktail parties uncomfortable.
The problem with this viewpoint, of course, is that it ignores the fact that America faces many very real and very ominous problems: and that many of them will only be solved by breaking a few eggs. Yes, it would be nice if some of the more extreme rhetoric in our political process were toned down (although Broder and his ilk seem often to overlook that most of it comes from the right and not the left). But at the end of the day, what matters is doing the people’s business well (and, yes, breaking those eggs to do it), not the level of decorum maintained among the Washington elite.
And if ruining a few Beltway cocktail parties is the price we must pay for progress on ending the war, protecting the environment and building a just economy — well, call me crass, but that’s a price I’ll be more than happy to pay.