The Corner

Left, Right, Center

I went down to NPR’s studios yesterday to take part in “Left, Right and Center,” a debate show produced by KCRW in California and distributed to a national audience.

I was subbing – inadequately but I did my darnedest – for the esteemed John O’Sullivan who, I’m guessing, couldn’t make it as he was busy preparing for the Jewish holidays.

(David Frum, I’m told, also is a veteran of this show. Don’t know why he couldn’t manage to do a little work prior to sundown, but that’s between David and K-Lo, none of my business.)

“Left, Right and Center” is somewhat misnamed: Other than John, the other regulars are Robert Scheer, an unreconstructed old leftist, Matt Miller, a New Democrat, and Arianna Huffington, a Nouveau Democrat, you might say.

So the show really should be called “Left, Left-er, Left-est and Center Right,” but I suppose that combination of words wouldn’t fall comfortably on the ear.

I’m told that when this program started Arianna was a Proud Woman of the Right. She drifted – or maybe jetted – to the left under the influence of Warren Beatty and the Beats (or something like that) which is how the dislocation came about.

What struck me oddest yesterday was this: Bob Scheer is a strong supporter of John Kerry and he was very buoyed by the Senator’s recent statements which, he insisted, is causing a shift in the electoral tectonics. As evidence of that, he cited some poll taken in California which, I interrupted him to point out, is not exactly a bellwether state.

But Bob’s analysis of the war in Iraq – like that of Jimmy Carter and his bud, Michael Moore – is that Iraq is Vietnam, America is the problem not the solution, we’re defeated, (as we deserve to be), it’s a quagmire, we should get out as quick as we can so no more working class boys have to die for a pack of lies.

That hardly echoes what Sen. Kerry is saying. Yet Scheer doesn’t say he disagrees with Kerry. I suppose that means he thinks Kerry will come around to his view later, after he’s been elected. Or maybe he thinks that Kerry agrees with him now but has determined that it would be unwise to speak candidly in the midst of a tight election campaign. And Bob sees nothing wrong with that.

In other words, the question for voters may be less whether John Kerry is flip-flopping and more whether he believes what he is saying or whether he believes what his key supporters are saying.

Clifford D. MayClifford D. May is an American journalist and editor. He is the president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a conservative policy institute created shortly after the 9/11 attacks, ...

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