The Aspen Ideas Festival begins with a few of the invited guests standing up to propose a "Idea" which they think would move the country forward. Wisconsin GOP Rep. Paul Ryan, was one of the guest invited to speak this year. His idea was to attack the deficit, and not pass on debt to our kids. It all sounded noble and well--Who likes the idea of passing on debt to children? But what really struck me was how ill-equipped I was to evaluate anything he was saying.
This happens all the time, to me. Someone will be opining about Israel, cap and trade, or health care, and I'll understand the arguments, but really be in no position to argue. I can smell blatant dishonesty, but the subtleties are harder for me. When I first got this gig, people would ask me to speak on a broader range of topics, and to be more aggressive in my objections. I understand the impulse. The Atl blog-roster isn't lacking for conservatives, and there's always a hunger for someone who make the Fox News pundits look stupid.
But I distrusted the whole game. Intuitively, I wonder about the honesty and proficiency of writers who opine on everything from Iran to education to drug policy to health care to cap and trade to race. Perhaps these people simply have more brains than me, but the catch-all nature of punditry, the need to speak on every policy topic as though one were an expert, is exactly what I hope to avoid.
Again, I'm a liberal in large measure because, in my time, liberals have been about the business of expanding the national consensus, of including of voices, of attempting to reconcile past wrongs. I don't think all of those attempts have been successful. But given the choice between that and an ideology that condones Willie Horton, condones Bob Jones, condones discrimination against gays, for me as a black man, there simply isn't much of a choice.