David Shepherd: News Blog

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The Washington Insider


>>> GOP V. Dems:  A Sharp Divide

By: David Shepherd, “The Washington Insider” columnist

David Shepherd NBC News (WTWO)

Last weekend, I drew sharp criticism over a story I did that aired on WTWO-TV (NBC) Terre Haute and here on the newsblog.

It was an interview with Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.  He was in town stumping for a republican candidate when I asked him about some of his “controversial” methods of keeping law and order.  Because I used the word controversial, viewers began sending e-mails and calling the station with complaints.

In the past 48 hours, I’ve been called everything from an “ultra-liberal abomination” to a “mouthpiece for the Obama administration.”  The biggest complaint about the story was the use of the word “controversial.”

I’m not going to rant about whether my choice of words were correct (but in case you’re wondering, dictionary.com defines controversy as “a prolonged public dispute, debate, or contention; disputation concerning a matter of opinion.” — Sounds pretty accurate).  But this just shows that Americans are becoming much more passionate about politics and the divide between Republicans and Democrats is getting much sharper.

Washington infighting is as old as the constitution.  But, this year in particular, things seem to be getting much nastier on both sides.

I guess it’s not all that surprising.  The White House’s bank and automotive bailouts and the President’s Healthcare Reform bill angered many conservatives and they began fighting back.  Then, the Democrats hit back and the fight has been nasty ever since.

Pile all of that on top of an economy that came close to tanking, a painful dip in the housing market, and the highest unemployment numbers in decades, Americans, on both sides, are scared about what’s to come. 

MSNBC Video - War Of Words

Many conservatives blame Mr. Obama and the democratic Congress for this mess.  And democrats say the President inherited all of these problems from his predecessor, President George W. Bush.

Those issues are the fuel on the fire leading up to November’s critical mid-term elections.  Republicans have everything to gain and democrats have everything to lose.  This election could shift the balance of power on Capitol Hill which is something conservatives are seeing as vital now, maybe more than ever.

With so much up for grabs this November, the tactic seems to be attack now, apologize (or not) later.  This isn’t new, it happens almost in almost every American election.  But this year, many candidates have stepped it up a few notches and the attacks, from both sides, seem to be harsher and more desperate.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, right?

Or does the nasty fighting just leave a bad taste in the mouths of voters?  What do you think? 



>>>   Ground Zero Debate Comes at a Bad Time for Candidates Running in November’s Midterm Election

By: David Shepherd, “The Washington Insider” columnist

Yahoo! News Photo

Professional Politics 101:  Don’t get in the middle of a heated political debate in the midst of a crucial midterm election.  Unfortunately for the Obama administration, the fight the President has landed in the middle of is between champions for freedom of religion and a nation still scared from the horror that gripped the country on September 11th.

The debate over a controversial plan to build a large Muslim cultural center 2 blocks from New York’s “Ground Zero” could be a perfect storm as an election that could shift the balance of power in Congress looms.

The President drew sharp criticism from Republicans earlier this week after issuing a statement where he seemed to be supportive of the Mosque’s plan to open in a part of town that saw, first hand, the terror of war on September 11, 2001.

This week on Fox News Sunday, Texas Republican John Cornyn said, “This is not about freedom of religion because we all respect the right of anyone to worship according to the dictates of their conscience … but I do think it’s unwise to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as the result of a terrorist attack,”

The day before, on Saturday, Mr. Obama seemed to clarify his earlier statement.  He said he supported the right of Muslims to build the center but would not comment on the “wisdom” of deciding its location in Lower Manhattan.

A debate, like this one, is the last thing any politician wants in a crucial election year.  It takes attention from the issues the candidates want to focus on.  But it also forces candidates to take a public stance on the issue as public opinion remains sharply divided.

As both sides remain convinced their arguments are firm, politicians are hoping this debate goes away before November’s midterm

Yahoo! News Photo

 elections, which are expected to result in big losses for Mr. Obama’s Democrats and a potential power shift in Congress in favor of Republicans.

Supporters of the right to build the center, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, argue that religious tolerance is the best answer to religious extremism, NBC News reported Sunday.

“The fallacy is that Al Qaeda attacked us. Islam did not attack us,” Jerrold Nadler, a Democratic congressman whose district includes the “Ground Zero” site, said on CNN’S “State of the Union.”

It’s unfortunate this argument won’t play out the way it would if it weren’t an election year.  In critical election years, like the upcoming Midterm, many politicians are even more on guard than usual.  It’s much more difficult to have an open, honest, productive debate as key players are caught up in the glare of media coverage that gets brighter as Election Day approaches.


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