"We must ensure that our armed forces get the resources that they need to win the war on terrorism – but we should not be illegally spying on American citizens and we should not be giving tax breaks to the wealthy while we’re at war and working class kids are protecting us.
But let us remember that the war on terrorism is not the same as the war in Iraq. It’s Bin Laden we’re after and we need to refocus on that goal. We will win this war against the terrorists who would shed American blood and destroy our way of life. But we will not surrender our civil liberties in the process."
These paragraphs require a little bit of unpacking. Here's what I can make out from them:
- Tytler wants to give the military the resources it needs How much is that? Does Tytler support the present budget which dramatically increases military spending even while drastically cutting the kind of domestic spending that makes America a great place to live?
- Tytler says we should not be illegally spying on American citizens Which kinds of spying against Americans does Tytler regard as illegal? The National Security Agency wiretapping and email-reading warrantless program? How about the FBI and Pentagon programs to spy against anti-war protesters? How about Bush White House efforts to grab search engine data from companies like Yahoo and America Online? What about the Total Information Awareness program, which, according to a report from the National Journal, is still operational within the NSA?
- Tytler believes tax cuts for wealthy Americans should not take place while we are fighting a war Does Tytler think we should have tax breaks for the wealthy when we're at peace?
- Tytler thinks that the war against terrorism is not the same as the war in Iraq Okay, then, just what IS the war on terrorism, anyway? Going on 5 years after the start of the war, could we please have some definition of exactly what the war is? I'm talking about defining a specific enemy - not just "terrorists everywhere". How about some specific objectives that can be achieved, instead of just "making America secure"? It's not Bruce Tytler's responsibility to come up with a definition for this dangerously nebulous war all by himself, but it would be nice if he could offer some concrete suggestions.
- Tytler says America needs to refocus on going after Osama Bin Laden How? Is the war over when we capture Bin Laden?
- Bruce Tytler opposes attacks on civil liberties in the name of wartime security Good for him. Does that mean Tytler would vote against the reauthorization of the Patriot Act, as it currently exists? What other specific changes to current policy does Bruce Tytler suggest?
I'm not writing all these questions as a way to be harsh to Bruce Tytler. All the candidates need to do a much better job at articulating specific policies. We need to have a deeper, richer level of debate in this congressional campaign.
Guess who it's up to, to make sure that this kind of debate happens?
Nope, it's not the candidates. Candidates will do their best to say just as much as they feel that they need to say on any subject, and no more. Candidates tend to believe that voters just need little reassurances to help them make their choice, and that speaking in depth can do more harm than good.
It's up to us voters to ensure a rich, meaningful debate, by asking questions that demand substantial responses. First and foremost, we need to show up and participate. It the game of democratic politics, we can't allow candidates to be the only players.