In the Arena

Teachable Moments

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Mickey Kaus has me on his mind, lately…which is always nice, in a perverse way. But he’s gotten a few things wrong. First, he says that I like McCain personally, but just can’t support him because of the disgraceful campaign he’s run. Not true, although McCain has certainly run a dreadful campaign. My objections to McCain were clear well before the mud started flying: I think his neoconservative foreign policy–the desire to keep long-term bases in Iraq, the refusal to talk with Iran and Syria, the free-range saber-rattling– would be a disaster. I also believe that his trickle-down economic plan is oh so 30 years ago. So, no, Mick, it’s not just the sleaze, it’s also the substance.

A more important–and more typically Mickey–mistake is his disapproval of Obama’s use of the phrase “teachable moment” in his interview with me last week:

There are good reasons to have high expectations for an Obama presidency, but the possibility of more “teachable moments” isn’t one of them. Is the presidency an adult education class? The whole concept of seeing voters as needing “teaching”–as opposed to persuading, or even selling– seems more than a bit condescending.  [He was just sucking up to Joe Klein–ed Good point.]

Actually, no. A President needs to be a really good teacher, especially in tough times. I remember my parents talking about how FDR told everyone to go out and buy maps and boxes of pins at the beginning of World War II so they could follow the progress of our troops. He became the nation’s geography teacher–and, as a consequence, our parents tend to have a better grasp of geography than our kids do. It would have been nice if George W. Bush had taken the opportunity to do a little teaching about Islam and the Middle East region after September 11. Obama’s ability to teach–or, at least, to explain–what the bailout was all about was one of his strongest moments in the debates. If he wins, this ability will be one of his strongest attributes as President…In any case, what’s the difference between teaching and selling? You’re playing word games, Mickey.

By the way, I noticed that Kaus is voting for Obama. But I haven’t seen a straight-ahead explanation of why he’s doing so…Mickey? Over to you.