Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman


Me, Me, Me

posted by swaldman

I don’t normally post links to my media appearances because when I see or hear them I’m usually obsessed with the things I forgot to say. But I wanted to bring your attention to two clips, and hear your reaction.
First, is an interview I did with Terry Gross of Fresh Air. Do you think I was fair or unfair to Sarah Palin? Fair or unfair to Bill Maher?
Second, this is a clip from a show hosted by Bill Bennett on CNN over the weekend. I was one of the panelists. So here’s my question: if you were sitting my chair, what would you have said in response to the questions and some of the comments from the other panelists?
Embedded video from CNN Video



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David Nash

posted October 6, 2008 at 4:18 pm


The conversation seemed a bit fragmented to me around some notion of “morality” that everyone seemed to agree to in general, but was not defined in particular. I would have been helped if “morality” would have been tied to a particular foundation, though Steve tried to point the way with a reference to the Puritans. In what context does America understand and operate from when “morality” is the subject. There appears to be many “moralities” from that of the religios believer operating out of a sacred scripture context to that of the lender operating out of a market context seducing a person to buy a house that he knows the buyer can’t afford.



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David Nash

posted October 6, 2008 at 4:23 pm


The conversation seemed a bit fragmented to me around some notion of “morality” that everyone seemed to agree to in general, but was not defined in particular. I would have been helped if “morality” would have been tied to a particular foundation, though Steve tried to point the way with a reference to the Puritans. In what context does America understand and operate from when “morality” is the subject. There appears to be many “moralities” from that of the religios believer operating out of a sacred scripture context to that of the lender operating out of a market context seducing a person to buy a house that he knows the buyer can’t afford.



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DANA

posted October 6, 2008 at 8:45 pm


Mr Waldman
You and Professor Wolfe were the best.
Prof.Wolfe was so good on the difference between being MORAL and MORALISTIC and also the WILLINGNESS TO PAY A BIT MORE TAX AS PATRIOTIC. BIDEN WAS RIGHT.
THAT YOUNG LADY WAS A BIT TOO PARTISAN, as usual.
The program benefited from both your presences. I saw it 3 times.
I enjoy serious discussions, and there is nothing I would like more than a UNITED People in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA UNDER GOD.
WHAT WE HAVE HAD SINCE 1979 IS THE RISE OF THE MORAL MAJORITY IS THE………..NICHIFICATION OF AMERICA……….so that some TALK RADIO SHOW talkers could have their FOLLOWING and stump their chest like primitive animals.
OBAMA since 2004 had the good idea of UNITING people.
Best wishes to you.
DANA



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steven waldman

posted October 6, 2008 at 9:48 pm


Dana and david, thanks so much for your thoughtful feedback



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Nancy B

posted October 6, 2008 at 10:40 pm


Steven,
In response to your question about whether or not you were fair in your comments about Sarah Palin on NPR’s Fresh Air program on 9-30-08:
Yes, yes yes.
I found your distinction between praying that a course of action is consistent with God’s will versus saying a course of action IS God’s will is a litmus test. It is not only scary, but very dangerous and totally arrogant to claim to KNOW God’s will; on the other hand, it is humble and appropriate, in my opinion, to pray for guidance.
Thank you for your tempered, thoughtful comments. I also thought your contribution to the CNN program this weekend was very positive.
Nancy B



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Fresh Air interview: God's Plan

posted October 7, 2008 at 2:31 am


I thought you offered a fair counterpoint to Bill Maher (whose film I just saw tonight) – but I remain with your secularist friends who regard the possibility that Sarah Palin could be VP as absolutely terrifying.
The way you parsed Sarah Palin’s evocation of “God’s plan” (first quote, which didn’t bother you) supports Maher’s POV that religious language is irrational. You made much of the distinction of (a) praying that something is in accord with God’s plan being different from (b) claiming that it IS God’s plan. To a secularist, such a distinction is spurious. If God’s plan is inherently unknowable (as even you agree it is), what sense does it make to introduce it in this context? There is no difference for people like Palin, as her second quote reveals. She certainly does believe God is on the side of the US: it’s an article of faith for her.
In simplest terms, the Unknowable is unknowable. Whether you invoke it humbly, tentatively, or with nationalistic confidence is equally nonsensical. It’s wistful hopefulness at best and murderous hubris at worst. The record of American involvement in Iraq, with the subsequent erosion of human right, rendition, torture, etc. (all implicitly supported by the Christian right) casts serious doubt on the presence of the Kingdom, not to mention, basic common sense.
(And if you caught an echo of Jacques Ellul in that last sentence, you heard correctly.)



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tfan

posted October 7, 2008 at 12:11 pm


I heard your interview on Fresh Air and thought you were very fair. I always enjoy Terry Gross’ interviews, I think she really tries to explore the subject with her guests, and she is always courteous. Did you enjoy being on the show?



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Steven Waldman

posted October 7, 2008 at 5:50 pm


tfan,
thank you — and yes, I love being on Terry Gross. it’s very luxurious to have so much time to discuss something, and also to be interviewed by someone who clearly does her homework.



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Gail Halava

posted October 7, 2008 at 11:43 pm


Mr. Waldman,
Thank you for asking this question. While watching the Bill Bennett show, Beyond the Politics, on Sunday, it was incredible to me that torture was supported as a means to an end, by saying there was apparently some result about the Sears Tower in Chicago, and therefore waterboarding or torture was acceptable. One gentleman agreed and vindicated Bennett’s assertion. Hopefully, you pushed back, though your response was left on the edit room floor, which wouldn’t surprise me.
My response would have been to ask Bennett if he himself could see or feel himself carrying out the act of torture? It is one thing to give the order, thus knowing someone else is doing the deed, and it is one thing to be the one doing the deed, but knowing that someone else made the decision, one is only following orders. But it is quite another situation when one is the decider of the action and also inflicts the pain. Those who make these decisions and direct others to carry out these criminal acts are cowards. It would be interesting to know how many acts of torture would actually happen if those who were in a position to make that decision, had to be close enough to look into the person’s eyes, hear their screams, watch them gasp for breath due to actions of their own hands.
Jane Mayer has spoken that under the Convention of Torture it is an abolute law that you cannot torture in wartime, you cannot torture for national security reasons. And what happens to the spirit, the soul, the emotions of the one who is infliciting this pain, this torture upon another human? Jane Mayer’s book, “The Dark Side”, describes the agony of nightmares, emotional pain and regret that those who inflict torture upon another human carry with them forever.
It is absolutely not okay to torture under any circumstances, and Bennett ought to have someone call him on it.



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Charles Cosimano

posted October 7, 2008 at 11:58 pm


Whether it is ok or moral or lawful to use torture is pretty irrelevant in the real world. The President orders it, it is done and then he pardons those who do it. That is what the power of pardon is really for, not just clemency, but so that illegal things can be done if they really have to be done.
The argument that works is that torture really does not work very well and as I have stated before, the ticking bomb argument is foolish because the person merely gives wrong information and while the wild goose chase is on the bomb goes off anyway.
Here is the scenario that I have presented. A terrorist group is planning an action. They allow their weakest member to be caught, knowing he is going to be tortured and break. But that member has been given false information and the location he says has the bomb is a trap for law enforcement, who burst in only to be surrounded and slaughtered.
And then the real bomb goes off.
I’ve seen at least one federal marshal, my brother-in-law, turn as white as the proverbial sheet when I explained that to him.



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upandown

posted October 8, 2008 at 9:05 pm


Sarah Palin is blameless. It’s not Sarah Palin’s fault that senior politicians chose her to be John McCain’s running mate. It
is also not her fault that the world has learned about her not so conventional religious beliefs and a variety of other things. So many useless arguments, spoken and written, could easily have been avoided if those, who were expected to be wiser had been wiser. Politicians and officials should only be asked whether or not they are believers and no details. For any public office and, especially, for president only those individuals should be considered, who possess the necessary education and experience to find real solutions to real problems while confining their religious beliefs to their private lives only. Torture is inhumain and so are heinous crimes committed against defenseless individuals, organizations and countries. No person should be tortured, however, hardcore criminals should permanently be removed from society or executed should their actions warrant the terminating of their lives. Those, who murder others in cold blood, put no value on human life, therefore, they are losing absolutely nothing when theirs are taken away; not out of vindictiveness but to in order to save innocent lives.



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