You Want a Specific Answer?
In a long-ago interview with David Broder on “Meet the Press,” then presidential-hopeful and budding-eccentric Ross Perot was challenged to provide details of a proposal he had made to trim government healthcare costs.
In response, Perot argued that Broder had ambushed him, unfairly asking a question for which he (Perot) was not prepared. But Broder kept at it, to prove a point (namely, that Perot was systematically vague in many of his proposals), until Perot broke and said, “You want a specific answer? I’ll give you a specific answer.” He then proceeded to do nothing of the sort.
Today, President Bush is playing his best David Broder to the Democrats’ Ross Perot, challenging them (as noted last week) to either support his plan for Iraq or â€œput up their own plan as to what would work.â€?
But this time the Democrats’ Perot, Mr. Obama — who is certainly no eccentric and has not yet mentioned crazy aunts in the attic, or basement, or whatever the analogy was — avoids the temptation to argue semantics with the President and does, in fact, give him a specific answer, albeit one the President clearly doesn’t want to hear.
Meanwhile, as Shaun Mullen noted yesterday, Sen. Arlen Specter has forcefully reminded the President that he is not a totalitarian ruler; that, in a Democracy, there is more than one “Decider/Decision-Maker.”
Ultimately, what Specter said echoes what James Surowiecki documented in his book, The Wisdom of Crowds, what the framers of our Constitution had in mind when they made “checks and balances” part of the American political lexicon, namely: Here, in this country, in this experiment in the wilderness, we will never trust the intellect of a single individual to establish policy. Rather, we will — from the quagmire of competing ideas — distill the best of the best and move forward on that basis.
You want a specific answer, Mr. Bush-as-Broder? I’ll give you a specific answer: Be the listener. And share the decider role with others. We’ll all be better off for it.
[Cross-posted at Central Sanity.]