It had been a couple of weeks since I had time — actual time and mental space! — to appear on Fox for a segment of The Strategy Room, and I really missed it! So I was thrilled when a spot became available last Friday, 9am, to once more dip into the world of live-streaming news and chat — hosted at that hour, as always, by the terrific Harris Faulkner.
My two colleagues on the morning panel, which turned out to be largely devoted to foreign policy, included KT McFarland — who is rapidly becoming, in my estimation, just about the nicest, most normal, centrist and not-radical Republican I know (she describes herself as a “fiscal conservative, social moderate, a defense hawk, and strong proponent of developing alternative energy” and I’d say that’s about right); and Al Regnery, scion of the ultra-conservative Regnery Publishing, a man who’s background (having done some digging) is, um, curious, if we believe this 1986 story in The New Republic.
Sounds like a not-so-subtle slap, right? The thing is you never really know who you’re going to be appearing with until you arrive at the studio. So the real challenge for me is twofold: doing my best to know my subject or subjects; and to be civil, since it’s risky to make presumptions about who you’re appearing with. Better, than, to do background work on people after the segment is over. So I didn’t really know very much about Mr. Regnery at all.
Since most of the discussion was about foreign affairs, I had a certain amount of knowledge to put forth and a further responsibility not to open my mouth about things that I did not have sufficient information on. For example, in the green room KT discussed whether the U.S. or Japan might shoot down that North Korean missile, and described the three moments during the launch process during which it might be possible, including degrees of difficulty, odds of success and political repercussions. Some of this is great factual stuff, some is more political in content. In any event, when the subject naturally arose during the segment, I felt at ease suggesting that KT go over that information once more for the viewers because a) I thought it would be informative; b) I imagine a lot of people watching might not know the details; and c) it might make me sound smarter than I am.
After the segment, I did some research on Mr. Regnery and the results did leave me with some cognitive dissonance. Because now that I know at least a little bit about him (not just due to that 22-year-old New Republic story but other things as well), I’m duty-bound to report that Mr. Regnery was very friendly and perfectly cordial. Indeed, given how disparate our backgrounds are, how much distance there exists between our political philosophies, I’m charmed by how courtly he was. The lesson: You can disagree violently with where someone sits philosophically or politically, but one needn’t always think that they are evil, for such appellations must be earned through actions, not summarily applied to people you don’t necessarily know.
Yes, this is me talking. After a few months of being on Fox, I feel one of the most valuable aspects of my experience is the realization that, in many cases, Republicans really are people, too. KT is a perfect example. I don’t have to agree with her on every issue or any issue, although I have sometimes been astonished by how often, in certain respect, I do. But regardless, what I must do is acknowledge how very decent she is toward me as a person. I’m appreciative of KT’s ability and willingness to explain a position publicly on the air or privately to me (to the degree we’ve chatted); I’m equally appreciative of those moments, however fleeting, in which she has fostered a situation in which I am able to actually learn something. After all, she’s the nuclear weapons expert and I’m the theater guy who is dipping more and more into politics and becoming utterly jazzed by it — by the whole idea of public service. Not bad for 40, I feel. And it’s all the more interesting for me as I use these opportunities to clarify my own political views. Certainly, all in all, it’s better than my previous m.o. — a default loathing of anyone who is part of the GOP. We’d be a finer world if we could be open to realizing that there are people across the aisle who are decent, with whom we can do business. That is, I admit, a real breakthrough for me.
Bottom line — and this is probably why I’m writing all this. As the President has said, we do not need, and we must not have, a culture of political hatred in this nation. And it is possible to find people who can disagree civilly and in terms of substance. It ought to be our great American standard of political debate. That it is not does not mean it cannot be.
Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that a 15-minute piece of the hourlong Friday segment was put up on Fox’s website. I think it’s worth watching:
More than anything, I was really astonished to realize that when it comes to Obama’s plan for Afghanistan, which was to be unveiled at the time I was on Fox — and which we were all discussing in a pre-announcement context — I turned out to be more hawkish than either of my Republican colleagues. What on earth can this mean?