Strategic Debate is Good for the Country

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President Obama and former Vice President Cheney delivered competing speeches yesterday, addressing the broad issue of national security, with specific reference to the issues surrounding Guantanamo, indefinite detention of suspected terrorists and the use of waterboarding.

Whatever one thinks of either our current President or former Vice President, they are both serious men and, wherever one stands on these issues, publicly debating them is only good for the country.

As our executive director Jim Stergios wrote in an op-ed that ran this past weekend in both the MetroWest and Milford Daily News, we seem to have proved ourselves incapable of engaging in serious, strategic debates.

At the federal level, passing an appropriations bill now amounts to action. Money is great. I love money and it is sometimes needed, but I’m not sure our elected officials don’t honestly believe that as soon as they have cast their vote to appropriate federal funds for whatever problem they are addressing, that that problem isn’t quite literally solved in that moment of roll call.

Closer to home, I wonder if our legislators honestly believe whether passing a pension reform bill that closes some of the more egregious abuses without touching the structural problems that inspire the abuses means their job on the issue is done?

There is an episode during the fourth season of The West Wing when the fictional President Bartlett skewers his Republican opponent for offering a 10 word answer in a debate. Bartlett challenges him to come up with the next 10 words, going so far (and bear in mind it’s a television show) that he would drop out of the race if he could, in fact, come up with them.

The West Wing’s fictional president was right. We need more than platitudes. We need serious debate. Who knows? Maybe across a whole swath of issues yesterday was the start of a trend. That would only be a good thing.