Sarah Armstrong joins demonstrators protesting the federal government's arrest of those who sell medical marijuana in California. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
In these times of economic strife and fervent debate over health care, our great national culture war has been pushed to the side. But once in a while, it pops up its mischievous little head to remind us that the eternal battle between the hippies and the squares continues on, even if we can ignore it from time to time.
The big news coming out of the Sunday shows is that Joe “with Democrats on everything but the war” Liebermantold Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation that he is so vehemently opposed to the inclusion of a public option in health-care reform that he would join Republicans in their filibuster of the bill if it contains the provision. When Schieffer noted that that would mean no reform at all, Lieberman happily proclaimed that he would prefer no reform to reform that included the public option.
This past week, we learned that the White House is "waging war" on Fox News. And what terrifying weapon is the administration wielding? What sinister tactic has the Fox faithful rending their garments? Well, the White House has said that Fox is more a political operation than a news organization, committed to advancing the Republican Party's goals. In other words, the White House is leveling the same charge people have made about Fox for its entire history. Watch the station for more than a few minutes, and you'll see it's true.
What's really been revealed in this little dustup is the way television journalists think that they should get to follow a set of rules different from the set their colleagues whose work appears in other media follow.
The influential French sociologist Gabriel Tarde wrote in 1898 that newspapers "both enriched and leveled ... the conversations of individuals, even those who do not read papers but who, talking to those who do, are forced to follow the groove of their borrowed thoughts. One pen suffices to set off a thousand tongues."
For months, the insurance industry was remarkably quiet. Despite fears that it would publicly fight reform with a scorched-earth campaign of television ads like it did in 1993, until now it's been subdued. It was part of a carefully planned inside-outside strategy: On the outside, the industry constantly stressed its support of reform, while noting that it objected to some of reform's potential components, like the public option. On the inside, it was furiously lobbying to make sure the bill would maximize its profits and minimize its costs.