If You Can’t Say Something Nice, Don’t Say Anything at All

I could have made this a snarky essay and posted it with the title, and nothing else. But I’m starting to realize that change in political discourse needs to start somewhere. So I thought I would make a small overture here.

Jon Stewart famously made an appearance on CNN’s “Crossfire” program, at the time hosted by Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala. Stewart asked Carlson, a Republican commentator, to say something nice about John Kerry. He also asked Begala, former aide in President Clinton’s administration, to say something nice about George W. Bush. Both hosts flubbed the challenge, then went on to defend the deliberately antagonistic format of “Crossfire.” Here are Begala’s recollections of the interview.

I’m not going to flub this one.

I am glad I’m writing this, because I’m not used to thinking about Republican politicians positively, and, along with taking a step toward common ground, it’s an interesting exercise. So, here goes:

Donald Trump – He is a successful businessman, and a master of marketing. His name is recognized worldwide, and he has built some exceptional buildings, several of which are synonymous with Trump. Yes, he has had a lot of failed business ventures, but that is only because he is not afraid to take chances. That is the right mindset to be a successful businessman.

Ted Cruz – He is very strong in his beliefs, which is more than a lot of politicians can say. He takes his Evangelical background and Conservative beliefs very seriously, and is not afraid to take a stand, even if it is far removed from the norm. In a very short time, he has become an important figure in politics.

Mitch McConnell – The senior senator from Kentucky, McConnell has been in the Senate since 1985, which shows he is responsive to Kentuckians, and is well liked. Throughout his tenure, he has been majority whip, minority leader, and majority leader; in addition to the respect of Kentuckians, he also has the respect of the Senate.

I hope this doesn’t come across as faint praise. I am impressed by these accomplishments. It takes years of hard work to achieve what these three, and every other Presidential candidate and Congressional leader, have achieved.

And I am also sure that these three have the best interests of America in mind…

OK, I want to hedge my bet here. I can’t be absolutely certain Trump has the best interests of America in mind. His lack of an expressed position on issues, his changing rhetoric, and his grandstanding, all suggest to me that he may be in this for himself, either to somehow improve his business cachet, or just to have people talk about him and have his ego stroked.

As for Cruz and McConnell, I do truly believe that they have the best interests of America in mind. It’s just that their vision of what is best for America differs a great deal from mine, and from many Democrats (and more than a few Republicans). That is what is great about America; that people with totally differing viewpoints can all express them.

I truly wish the debates and discussions over issues were more focused on why one person believes what he does and why the other belief system is not correct. Let’s focus more on these ideas, and less on people’s hand size.

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