Debates can leave public well informed

Freedom New Mexico

They called it a retreat. Fortunately, neither side seemed inclined to fall back.

Observers say Friday’s exchanges between President Obama and Republican lawmakers were something they hadn’t seen in a long time, if ever. Obama and his political opponents engaged in lengthy debates over policies and politics at a GOP get-together in Baltimore.

Who knows if the discussions — and they appear to be the closest thing to discussions we’re likely to see from the two parties — will lead to more substantial dialogue on the many issues that affect our daily lives. We hope they will.

According to news reports, the president took detailed questions regarding health care, taxation and other issues. To be sure, each side accused the other of being the chink in the cogs that hold up progress — Obama, who’s often called a socialist, accused Republicans of being Bolsheviks. But both sides provided points and facts to back up their general statements on the issues.

This is what we don’t see enough in party politics, where each side’s call for bipartisanship usually means “you come over to our side.” We seldom see much compromise, even though both sides show the same penchant for increasing taxes so they can buy votes by expanding programs.

But some disagreements do exist. Unfortunately, most of the rhetoric we get from politicians and pundits alike is what Obama on Friday called “boilerplate”: general statements based on popular myths.

The president used the term in response to Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, who asked why the administration continues to say that Republicans haven’t offered any constructive ideas, even though, Price said, their constituents “know that Republicans have offered positive solutions” on the health care bills that have been offered.

Obama noted that political pressure probably interfered with hopes for compromise and honest negotiations.

“The fact of the matter is, many of you, if you voted with the administration on something, are politically vulnerable with your own base, with your own party,” the president said, although he blamed the Republicans for the problem. “What you’ve been telling your constituents is, ‘This guy’s doing all kinds of crazy stuff that’s going to destroy America.’”

To an extent Obama is right, although that very statement makes it clear that he, and other Democrats, do the same thing.

What’s needed is less inflammatory rhetoric and more substantive information. If Obama’s plans are bad for the American people, let us hear specifically how. If Republican suggestions aren’t considered, tell us why. What’s wrong with the goods the other side is selling? What exactly are the facts that support your own proposals?

These decisions directly affect the lives of American voters and residents. If those voters are to make informed decisions, they should have the information upon which to base their decisions.

As the principals acknowledged Friday, however, much of what we get from both sides of the aisle is offered in the name of politics, not progress.

If policies are based on sound judgment, and the people are well informed, then they are likely to support them. Feeding the people hollow, inflammatory rhetoric suggests that those policies are hard to defend logically.

We need more of these debates.