In the Arena

On Boycotts

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First, congratulations to Barack Obama for dropping out of the Congressional Black Caucus Institute-Fox News debate. With John Edwards already out, that means this sordid event is over…Back in 2004, I remember raising an eyebrow or two when it was announced that Fox would sponsor a debate in partnership with the CBC, of all groups. Roger Ailes’ strategy seemed classic: For the dimwitted, Fox would seem high-minded and civil rights oriented…for everyone else, Fox would provide a high-profile podium for Democrats to pander to one of the party’s most myopic interest groups.

Actually, I’m opposed to all these special interest group debates–and while it was a good move by Howard Dean to limit the Dems to one officially sanctioned debate per month, it would have been a better move to tell groups like the CBC and Naral and AARP that Democratic candidates would not appear at their forums this year.

And finally, it is said that the new generation of liberal activists are more skeptical about the Democrats’ special interest freight train than we Baby Boomers have been. I hope that’s true, especially when it comes to “identity” interest groups, like the Black Caucus. A few years ago, I suggested that the CBC should disband itself and reform as the “Poor People’s” caucus, inviting in any white or Hispanic member who had significant numbers of poor people in his or her district. Still think that’s a good idea.

As for that other boycott: I’m not a big Imus fan. I’m usually reading the papers when his show is on–and so I’ve been mystified why this has become such a popular spouting place for politicians. The few times I’ve listened to or appeared on Imus, he didn’t seem all that devastatingly hilarious. And what he said about the Rutgers women’s basketball team was deeply unfunny. But he has apologized–and I have a rule about these sorts of things: Any story that gives Al Sharpton airtime–I’m staring at him right now on CNN–has probably gone on too long. There is one very effective way to boycott Imus: don’t turn him on.
And while we’re talking about who should and should not be on the air, I’ve got lots more time for Imus than, say, Glenn Beck–who Time Warner, my corporate parent, puts on the air for the edification of civilization. Imus has proven over the years that he can and will read books. Not so sure about Beck.