The art of writing political commentary

By Reade Brower

There is no art to writing about politics.

It’s an abyss; a classic tale of “preaching to the choir” and pontification.

The idea is to draw in readers with the goal of encouraging dialogue, leading to discussion. How naïve to think that; instead, most of the time, it produces discourse and acrimony.

There are occasions where minds change; with nine Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee demanding the resignation of Adam Schiff, the initial reaction was to agree — “enough is enough.” The majority think Mueller is as good as it gets and waiting on his report the right approach. Attorney General Barr’s four-page summary made it clear collusion did not rise to a criminal level and obstruction did not meet his standards of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

If that could be taken at face value, perhaps we could move forward as a nation, unified and collectively breathing a “sigh of relief” that our president was not a foreign agent and did not, beyond a reasonable doubt, obstruct justice. At least, one might hope, we could wait until the full 380 pages are released before drawing absolute conclusions.

But, our president immediately goes on the offensive and schedules pep rallies where he boasts he is exonerated from all charges and that now we must investigate the investigators. And, at the same time, Democrats like Schiff are saying, “hold on” until they see the entire report.

Barr must redact security and privacy issues of grand jury testimony. The commonsense approach says wait until the report is redacted and shared with the public, who paid for the investigation, before coming up with opinions.

Many want to say “shut up” to both sides of the aisle while we wait. That is why many felt Schiff was overplaying his position; however, when listening to the full context of the Schiff speech defending his position and vowing not to resign his chairmanship, a change of mind occurred for some.

His “you may think this is OK; I do not” diatribe was powerful. In the end, it is not OK; whether it broke laws is not all that matters. The idea that it is morally corrupt or lacks ethics is important. If you believe all that matters is the law, then we think differently and that is OK, but we’ll never change each other’s minds — never.

Chris Wallace interviewed Kellyanne Conway on Sunday, asking her to weigh in on this and on the controversy about her husband. When Wallace asked her how her husband George’s rants about President Trump have affected her marriage, she chastised Chris, asking him if he was trying to be Oprah.

What was interesting is Wallace knew he was treading “out-of-bounds” territory and admitted he was uncomfortable with his own line of questioning, but continued anyway, telling Kelly that was what his audience wanted him to ask.

Conway deserves her privacy when it comes to her personal life; but she failed to acknowledge it was Trump who made this a story, instead blaming the main stream media for acting irresponsibly.

This circles back to where we started; there is no good way to write about politics. Those reading this who are anti-Trump see it one way. Those who are pro-Trump see it another way. The written word of an opinion column has little impact on changing views.

The challenge is truth has little to do with it. Conway once was ridiculed for using the term “alternative facts.” What she might have meant is that facts are facts but they can be interpreted differently. The Mueller Report does not exonerate Trump but it does say that there was not enough to indict him; these are two separate realities.

When it is not “cut and dried,” it is muddy. Muddy allows the beholder a similar experience to that of taking a Rorschach test where inkblots are up to individual interpretation. There are no wrong answers; rather there can be several right answers and it’s hard to dispute what people see for themselves.

Perhaps it’s time to write less about politics and more about humanity. It is up to you, and you, and you, to vote your conscience — that is the only thing that will bring about change.

Speaking of writing about politics, “Another View,” a political column that appears in these papers that represents a conservative Republican perspective, often with views contrary to these, wrote something prolific recently.

In a late January column, Ken Fredric wrote: “It is said that Professor Alan Dershowitz would tell his students to argue the law when the law was on their side, argue the facts if facts were on their side, and when neither was on their side to pound the table.”  Dershowitz added that another effective tactic is: “Call the opposing attorneys names.”

That sums up why writing about politics is a no-win proposition and just a little better than a “stick in the eye.”

“I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.” — Douglas Adams, author (1952-2001)