Chris Matthews and Chris Wallace each earned a (mythical) Reinhold Niebuhr award* for bringing good temper and integrity into the political fight. The highest level of political ethics is to call out members of one’s own party, or people whose politics you’re in general sympathy with. We expect to see MSNBC commentators like Matthews ripping Republicans, just as we expect to see Fox News commentators like Wallace ripping Dems. Ho hum, no surprise there, and no contribution to the integrity of the political fight.
But when California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina came on Fox News Sunday Wallace grilled her about her plan to close California’s huge budget gap, finally exposing her as an empty suit. And when Kentucky Democratic Senate Candidate Jack Conway came on Chris Matthews’ Hardball show, Matthews grilled him about his campaign ad questioning his opponent’s Christianity, exposing Conway’s ad as baseless and scurrilous.
Our civic society is being ripped by the bitter antagonism between left and right, the worst since the bad old days of Senator Joe McCarthy, red hunts, and leftish defenses of Soviet spies. It’s made worse by the ease of getting all one’s news from a kind of “Daily Me,” an assortment of media that reflect only one’s own bias. Fox News Sunday and MSNBC’s Hardball took a step away from the cartoonish view of them as mouthpieces for liberalism and conservatism. The two Chris’s interviews are in the highest traditions of Niebuhr’s goal of a healthy society.
*Christian theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote, ‘The temper of and integrity with which the political fight is waged is more important for the health of our society than the outcome of any issue or campaign.”