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Explaining the difference between political debate and

As they debated whether or not to ratify the Constitution, America’s Founding Fathers may have found the technology of Podcasting useful, if only it had been available. Civic minded people could have downloaded those spirited debates, both pro and con, in what was our nation’s first major PR campaign.

But there is a cautionary tale, too–especially for the world of modern political reporting, which often eschews context and nuance, and focuses instead on hyperbole. The result is that the crux of a debate may be lost. What’s left is overheated rhetoric–such as the term “bashing”–that may not have been in the original dialogue but which is supplied later by journalists who relish a good fight and take statements out of context.

My choice of the word “bashing” is not an accident–it illustrates the point I am trying to make. Readers of the Sacramento Bee may know what I’m talking about.

It was recently written that I “bashed [Gov.] Schwarzenegger for his ‘deficit-spending'” during a Podcast in which former Mayor Willie Brown interviewed me about national and state politics.

I’ve done a fair amount of bashing over the past few years. I bashed Gov. Gray Davis on the eve of the recall election during a live interview on Hardball with Chris Matthews. We were discussing Davis’ treatment of women.

I bashed Attorney General Bill Lockyer after his ludicrous comments about Gov. Schwarzenegger having the “odor of Austrian politics.” (I should have bashed him harder for that one.)

And I bashed Speaker Fabian Nunez more than once for being in the back pocket of organized labor.

I know a little something about bashing, and what I said about the governor’s budget didn’t even come close. But perhaps bashing – like beauty – is in the eye of the beholder.
In its brief account of this exchange, the Bee used the term bashing.

You judge for yourself.

Willie Brown: “


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