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Phony Baloney Political Empathy

Many readers agreed with my tirade against phony-baloney, I-feel-your-pain political theater. Others, however, said it wasn't phony and that the ability to empathize is an important part of politics.



Ah, Mr. Myers! To be able to look into people's hearts and judge them in the name of wishy-washy politics!

I am a Californian. Specifically, I am a 49-year-old now homeless Californian and I must say that I often find my Senator Dianne Feinstein not voting the way I'd like, or wondering if she really empathizes with me on issues, which she often seems to wait an agonizingly long time on before coming to a decision. But I am convinced that not only was her vote on Roberts correct, but her critique was to the point, and genuinely heartfelt; especially towards all of us who are poor, or lettuce pickers, or women raped by their relatives; and who are not highly paid lawyers, Senators — or media commentators.

I look forward to more heartfelt votes like this one from her.

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My only wish is that all Senators with a conscience will now vote like she has on this disingenuous Roberts: a man who has the honesty to slam us with his convictions in memos and decisions, but not the heart, nor courage, to defend them when asked in person. What kind of phoniness is this!
David Busch, Santa Monica, CA



I agree with your article. In my understanding, the Supreme Court's job is to interpret the law as it applies to a specific case. This should have nothing to do with a judge's life experiences. In fact, we would hope one's life experience never is used in this type of decision making, for that would be biased and not arbitrary as it should be. Ms. Feinstein, in her position as a senator, is in a completely different situation. She and her associates should, and must have, a keen awareness of what is happening to the people of her state and their life experiences. The real concern here is that she doesn't seem to realize the difference between the functionalities of the branches of government. I don't know who Cohen is, but he has the same problem. Actually it seems like the entire country is suffering from a lack of understanding of how the government was designed to work.
Stephanie Risvold, Lake Forest, CA

Well said Dick. You would think that the politicians would know by now that the electorate know their tricks and don't like to be played the fool. As you pointed out, it doesn't matter which political party you belong to, the game book is virtually the same. But with pathetic news media cameras and microphones in their faces begging them for this type of behavior, we keep getting this drivel dealt to us. We want honest and legitimate thoughts and opinions about the issues as well as real work from them, not tap dances and photo-ops.
Ray Thatcher

I normally don't like your articles but I liked your article on the phony sensitivity our leaders are supposed to display. I get sick of all of this sensitivity, especially on the news. I would prefer a robot reading the news to me than these broadcasters. I just want the facts, not their opinions, not their sentiment. That is one of the reasons I prefer the web for news. I vote Republican but I find it difficult to stomach Fox News (except for Britt Hume and Krauthammer).
Steve Koch

Dick Meyer's Phony Baloney Political Empathy article was excellent. His use of the word narcissism to characterize Feinstein's questioning of J. Roberts is highly accurate. It also applies to much more. Our postmodern consumption and comfort-based society is drenched with narcissism. Imagery, it seems, has become more important in presidential and political elections rather than real, bona fide qualifications and intelligence that can be applied to solve actual problems.

In a perfect world the United States will embark on creating rigorous and continuous tests of Competence for Office before any person can enter political campaigns or remain an elected official.
Andrew Yost, Albany, OR



Once again, you astound me. How about this scenario? Public acknowledgement on the part of Roberts, Bush and perhaps even Feinstein herself that they do not have the life experience of lettuce farmers or poor urban dwellers. Not "I feel your pain," but perhaps "Let me hear and see your pain," and set aside time to explore the issues that face the entirety of the population. I consider this an essential ability of a Supreme Court Justice-to make educated judicial decisions that most certainly do affect all of us and not just the affluent.
Virginia Kingsley

Dick Meyer was spot on in his 'Jumping Through The Hoops' piece in today's on-line edition of CBSNews.com. How refreshing that the phony empathy emitted by Diane Feinstein and Richard Cohen regarding Judge Roberts and then President Bush in the aftermath of the hurricanes was called for what it is. Baloney.

The political culture in this country is quickly becoming a theater of the absurd regardless of which party you support. Displaying and emoting, especially empathy, should be left to the truly capable ass kissers of our society. Actors.
Scott Peters


Scapegoats Can Wait

OK, so my instincts are way off. I thought for sure this piece would be a hate-mail generator. It wasn't at all. In fact I received way more nice e-mails than I'm used to. My hunch is that despite the fact that I often write about often how different politicized and partisan people are from the majority of us, I forgot about that when I began to write the column. Most people are much more concerned about helping than blaming. And they don't really buy the line the blaming and investigating helps for the next time. So very sincerely this time, thanks for all the e-mail.

Also, thanks for all the concern about my job. It never struck me that this column was even remotely "conservative" or "liberal" but many readers seemed morally certain that the mysterious uber-bosses at CBS wouldn't like the piece. Guess what. Everything is just dandy.



Good article. As a Republican, I can't believe you actually work for CBS. Maybe there is some common sense in the main stream media after all? I am truly sick of the constant politicizing of anything and everything.
Thanks,
Joan Santos

Thank you. You wrote what I feel.

I would include most media members to the embarrassing political class. Too many are focusing on the sniping instead of the efforts to relieve suffering. They could be bringing us together, focusing our efforts on the many ways to help.

I am so sorry that political people and media members do not revere their roles more.
Marcella Wilson, Maple Park, IL



I was so pleased to see this reasonable article from CBS. The partisan sniping has gotten way out of hand. I can only hope that this message gets through to those who need to hear it. Certainly there were mistakes at many levels, but the idea that they were intentional is unsubstantiated at best and destructive in all probability. CBS would do well to spread this message far and wide. Let's stop the baseless accusations.
Jim Ogden, Dover, PA

I took the day off to work on the house and was sitting down to read the latest news on the internet. I followed a link from Lucianne.com and almost choked to death on my breakfast bagel. A voice of reason from CBS!!!! More of this type of objective reporting on your evening broadcast, and I might start watching again…..
Cheers.
E. Royce White, Niceville, FL

It is a wonderful editorial, Washington has become a place where "winning" and "losing" seem to over ride doing what is best. Katrina provides just another example of this. If Congress really wants to help have each Congressman and Senator go to the Transportation bill and cut one Pork project from his district - that would go along way for paying for the cleanup.
U-DUB

Agree with everything you wrote, but now wonder how many days you have left at CBS News. Remember Bernard Goldberg.
Kathie

I am sure that the politicians, President Bush and all parties concerned can walk and chew gum at the same time. I don't think it is too much to ask that questions be answered and the victims of Katrina be taken care of simultaneously. The race and class issue has been swept under the rug for too long. The real crime is that in 2005 America is still grappling with race relations and issues involving class distinction, not that it is mentioned. For a country that is quick to try and solve problems in other nations, how about if we solve our own first.
BGILWIL

I disagree with you about 99 percent of the time. I read your articles and find your views often to be idiotic. However, and I can't believe I am writing this, you are right on the mark this time. We need to come together as a nation and help our fellow Americans. I am sick of the finger pointing. The blame game is distracting from the nations current task at hand. We have American citizens who need our help, immediately. Stop the political game that is exacerbating the situation.

For once I am in agreement with Dick Meyer. Dogs and cats playing together!
Brian P. Leech, Houston, Texas



We the "normal" American public agree with what Dick's article said. We are sick of politicians trying to get camera time at the expense of the real victims of a disaster which was impossible to prevent.
Thank you CBS News, for FINALLY getting the story right. If CBS continues along these lines, maybe we will give you another chance.
M. Nice, Corpus Christi, TX

Let me catch my breath...

It is hard to believe there is someone at CBS who can still tell the truth.

Please don't fire Dick Meyer for doing it. Who knows, truth-telling may catch on over there.
George Croft, Dallas, Texas



This was a great article on the political comments after Katrina. I have experience with emergency response and am tired of hearing people and mostly politicians that have never been in a command center spout off about "their assessment." As in warfare you do not send in forward relief without back channel support. You do not evacuate with no facility. Yes this is not a shinning moment for America but mostly for Washington. So much of response is not visible and that is the most essential work.

Keep up the writing and get yourself on the main CBS programming. Those of us who have been in a response command center are outraged at the Congressional, Hollywood and political commentary. I mean children are in schools only 9 days after. When FEMA rolled into New Orleans on Friday they were able to evacuate the city to established shelters due to work done on Wednesday and Thursday.
Timothy J Bates



For a moment, as I read it, I thought I was dreaming. This, surely, can not be a product of CBS. Then, I realized that, in fact, it had come from CBSNews.com --- quite likely, a more enlightened and honorable group than those at TV and Radio. But then, who among us is not more enlightened and honorable than the "mainstream media".

Many thanks and I hope Dick Meyer can keep his job and keep these types of columns coming.
Greg Willcox, Spokane, WA



It is utterly refreshing to read a piece of such good common sense and lucidity.

Mr. Meyer clearly shows the link between our national propensity for litigation and the current scapegoating and finger pointing regarding Katrina. It's a subtle point, and worth pondering.
Jane Patsakos, Kentwood, Michigan



I am astonished to read the comments of Mr. Meyers. Are we taking a step forward in journalism when a MSM outlet speaks out about the political motivations of those who constantly jump in front of the cameras? There are a small percentage of citizens who always join in on this political division of our country but the over whelming number of citizens, I believe, are sick to death of this crap!
Ruth Skidmore, Plymouth CA

Bush has always been mighty quick and mighty good at playing the blame game on everyone else, so why should he and his henchmen not be held accountable?

This can't be blamed on Bush. It's all Clinton's fault. It's the fault of Democrats. If Clinton hadn't had sex with a woman, that hurricane would never have formed. Let's get him! No wait...it's the fault of TEACHERS! Teachers must be held accountable! Let's blame unions! Teacher's unions did it. We can't let those lousy teachers get away with this! Fire them all! Get rid of teachers! Get rid of their unions! Get rid of public education! Those lazy underprivileged people need to take some responsibility for their own education. They must be held accountable for their own actions!

But not Bush. Bush is not accountable for anything. The buck doesn't stop with him. It stops with YOU.

The media is just SO unfair. They pick on poor, innocent Bush all the time. So stop your whining on Bush's account.
Lanette Fox



Enough is right. Enough Bush can do no wrong talk.

From Jon Stewart on the "Daily Show": "Little observation: When people don't want to play the blame game? They're to blame."

Which school of criminal investigation would recommend that anyone interested in learning the truth wait and let evidence evaporate before an investigation begins? Are you so complacent that you are willing to wait until after the mid-term elections for the report that says the head of FEMA should have been fired not only for botched preparedness and botched rescue but you need to give him time to add botched recovery to the list? Out of respect for the dead, I want to know how many people suffered unnecessarily and I want to know how many died and I really want to know how many of them died between Monday and Friday.

I swear, the people who voted for Bush must have also signed a loyalty pledge and a pledge to hear no evil, see no evil, speak no ill of their potentate. I see he has set Sept. 16th as the national prayer for victims of Katrina day. Like I need him to tell me when to pray. I've been praying since day one. He should name the day his wing and a prayer day. Better yet, wing ding and a prayer day. Grrr . . .
Eldonna Ruddock



Racism was involved in the withholding of aid to the black citizens of New Orleans.

Your changing the subject to scapegoating is typical of the white-controlled media of today.

You enjoyed showing the suffering of those black people - didn't you?
Dick Richards, Atlanta GA



Yes, I agree that we all need to pull together. Unfortunately, the divisive, winner take all, unwillingness to take responsibility or to admit error, and responsiveness of the Bush administration only to the perceived constituency of the moneyed and the religious fundamentalists have set the tone for present plethora of finger pointing.

Your closing remarks imply a large part of the political problem in the U.S. They state:

"Most people thought 9/11 would bring the country together and ease the so-called culture wars. It may have for some, but certainly not for the politically engaged. And so it will be with Katrina."

Perhaps if those who are politically not engaged would become engaged, we would have an administration that truly represents the majority of the electorate. Then we might be better able to pull together.
Robert V. Hubbard, Springfield, VA



After reading your column "Scapegoats Can Wait", I have come to the considered conclusion that you're an idiot.

Read this aloud and perhaps it will sink in: The hurricane was a natural disaster. The flooding was man-made. Are you getting it now?

Objecting to a president who leaves thousands to die while he plays guitar is not partisan. It's human. In case you haven't noticed, this country has come together over this crisis. It's come together in condemnation of this incompetent administration. The only thing embarrassing is clueless columnists like yourself who refuse to believe the abundant evidence before their eyes.

I really couldn't care less about the democratic "leaders." When will you start saying what really needs to be said: that this president is so overmatched by the demands of his job that he needs to resign.

How many more Americans -- Americans for God's sake -- need to die before "journalists" like you will take a stand? Are your career and connections really that important? What if it was your family lying dead under the flood waters? Would you still want to wait for answers?
Yours in disgust,
John Graziano



Not A Time For Partisan Sniping
Some readers thought I had hit the nail on the head this week with my comments on the partisan harping about the Hurricane Katrina. But many others, it seems, would like to hit me on the head.

Thank you for a thoughtful piece; the media is much at fault for showing ONLY the dreadful horror of the event; it would be wonderful to hear from a few of those risking their life to help others and to hear from those who don't blame Bush for EVERYTHING that happens anywhere, anytime. May God bless and protect all who have suffered so much.
Barbara Anderson, AZ

Bush has shown incompetence in everything he has ever attempted. It is vital that Americans are aware of it and make decisions in light of it. To not point out how stupidly Bush acts, and the tragic results of his decisions, would be a failure of understanding and action on the part of the people.

Quoting Limbaugh is a fool's errand. Limbaugh is the ultimate partisan, who uses any tactics to accomplish his sleaze. I frankly am amazed a legitimate professional like you would quote Limbaugh for any purpose.

It is vital that the people unite in strength to hinder any other actions on the part of this dim bulb. If we can't, then we deserve what we get.
Jim Slark, Dana Point, CA



"Of course some howlers in the winds of politics and culture war are trying to score political and rhetorical points on Katrina's back; we'll make fun of them later."

I think making fun of this ridiculous comment is warranted now. This was a tragedy being predicted and talked about for years. The government had days to plan for the hurricane's arrival. Bush cut funding to fix the levees so more money could go toward Iraq and other areas which do not help Middle America. Now is not the time to hold people accountable?? Please, WHEN is the time?? How much more are Americans going to sacrifice and suffer for the miserable failures and delusions of this President?? Can someone please explain why helicopters did not air drop food and water supplies to the Dome until FRIDAY?? Even if we believed Bush's pathetic excuse that our superb military couldn't make it into a flooded American city before now and that no one could have possibly predicted this tragedy, WHY couldn't helicopters have at least air dropped these supplies Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday?? But no, let's just hold Bush unaccountable yet again for another one of his miserable failures.

What will it take to wake up Americans to what Bush has done to us by sending all our resources, lives, and money for his delusional war and ignoring warning after warning after warning on global warming? What will it seriously take? How much longer are Americans going to tolerate listening to Bush parrot over and over again how he's working hard and thinking about things? The absolute failures of this President with NO consequences is literally amazing. When will we finally say enough?

"This event is frankly too big to have opinions about."

Frankly, if you really believe this, find a new job.
Jenny Wienke



You often hit the nail on the head in your commentaries, and this one, again, sinks into the wood. When a neighbors' house is on fire, we rush to put it out, first. Later, when everyone is safe, we can talk about the housing code violations that may have caused it. Today we have Americans dying across the Gulf states, and dead bodies to be respectfully picked up and buried. My state -- Vermont -- stopped what we were doing yesterday and filled dozens of tractor trailers with water, clothes and food at 11 drop-off sites, including the statehouse lawn. I was at one site, loading pallets with countless volunteers who just appeared and were likewise grateful to pitch in. It may be human nature to seek advantage out of turmoil, but it was human spirit that filled the trucks with essentials for our southern neighbors.
Michael T. Heath, Hinesburg, VT

No, Dick, it IS time for partisan sniping. We've been told for six years that this administration was re-organizing agencies to protect the U.S. in case of disaster. We've had color coded warnings that make Chicken Little look mild-mannered. Billions have been squandered to that end only to discover that, when the chips are down, the responsible agencies cannot manage a simple water drop to an elevated freeway. And the former F.B.I. head who was tipped to the imminent hijacking jet attack has been given a medal of honor.

It is time for more than partisan sniping. It's time for people to hit the streets to show their disgust with this sham of a government and a poseur for a president.
Dean Hubbard, Orlando, FL



Admittedly, I have not for a couple of years done more than rarely browse your website nor those of the other mainstream media outlets because I became tired of the lack of news being reported and the obvious increase of editorializing being offered instead.

In the wake of the hurricane catastrophe, however, and the unbelievable speed at which this country and its elected leaders are being scoffed, I felt compelled to scan some of the headlines on CBS News and other media websites to confirm what I could not believe was already being said by the media in the hourly radio reports. Your lone headline, "Not a Time for Partisan Sniping," is the lone sane voice on all of these websites (abcnews.com, nbcnews.com, cnn.com) to this average American who is trying to gather the facts, to decide where to send my money, and to make sense of this American human tragedy. Mr. Meyer, you are it...the only one expressing this sentiment.

I have decided one thing already: I would prefer to persevere with my fellow Americans without those who would take this time to politicize this disaster. Thank you for your point of view and for putting it into words for the world to read. I hope to hear more such sanity from you and your cohorts -- although, sadly and except for you, I will not hold my breath.
M. K. Cirame, Saint Clair Shores, MI



I agree it is no time for partisan sniping. However, it is a time for accountability. The road map for that accountability will need to include the decision to cut funding for the New Orleans area levees for the first time in 37 years, starting in the first year this administration was in office (See Times Picayune, New Orleans CityBusiness, etc.), the decision to fight a discretionary war in a far off land after drumming up popular support by fear mongering references to mushroom clouds and mendacious linking of 9/11 actors to Iraq, poor planning for the aftermath of that war resulting in an overextended National Guard, poor evacuation planning for this very hurricane disaster that has been predicted for decades, tax cuts during war which had a direct effect on federal spending on levees, and by the complete lack of leadership as evidenced by this President's need to keep a T-Time and make political stops in Arizona and California to raise partisan campaign money after the hurricane had hit. Oh, I would also recommend reading the EPA report on global warming, especially the part headed by "CLIMATE CHANGE EXPECTED to LEAD TO STRONGER HURRICANES." It was severely criticized and dismissed by the President, but you might find it a good read for an accountability article.

In passing, I see you have quoted Rush Limbaugh as a source of information for your article calling for an absence of partisan sniping and on the irrelevance of global warming. I thought he built his empire on those very things: partisan sniping and hot air.
Rich Brock



I am so relieved to read your commentary and see that not all members of the press corps have gone totally insane. I am sick to death of the typical, pseudo-intellectual but overly simplistic analysis that sensationalizes the news, exploits the victims, further polarizes an already divided public and assigns ridiculous blame to political enemies -- most often to the current President.

Thank you for your much-needed voice of reason. May your influence be felt and copied by your comrades and colleagues throughout the media.
Jane Day



I fully agree that partisan cheap-shots, left, right or center, are out of order in a time when we see so much death, so much suffering that it is impossible to absorb it all at once. But pragmatic criticism is another matter. If one life is spared because one FEMA official, or one politician works one minute more than she or he would have done in the absence of that criticism, then I say let us not withhold at least this measure of criticism. From Federal and State agencies to our politically elected leaders, the effort to save New Orleans and the Gulf Coast has been slower than it should have been, smaller than it needed to be, and as uncoordinated beyond what one familiar with the centralized nature of other governmental programs could ever have imagined. Despite the heartbreaking scenes, I did not expect the government to respond for 24 hours after the levees broke (i.e. until mid-day on Wednesday). But it is now very early Thursday evening and no one is even dropping water and MREs to thousands of people congregated in small spaces easily reached by helicopters for low-level dumps to the ground.

We should, indeed we have a moral obligation, to keep the people responsible for policy, administration and execution of life-saving services for those who are sick, starving and scared. I don't care about Rush Limbaugh, or Robert F. Kennedy Jr. right now. Neither should you. But I do care that people if those with responsibility are asleep at the switch. So should you.
Ira J. Cohen, Plainsboro, NJ



It's not partisan bickering when the evidence of GROSS INCOMPETENECE is so damned overwhelming. The policies of this administration, the lack of performance on the part of FEMA and the DOD, etc are a disgrace.
Joseph Plunkett

The article on CBS News' website regarding avoiding partisan politics in the N.O. mega-disaster is extremely lame.

I would like to indict CBS as one of the major media as guilty players in all of this. I am an independent voter who cares about people more than corporate profits, and all the networks are in a race down, down, down in terms of accountability to their viewers.

Not only do you not hold the elected officials who are guilty of massive corruption, fraud and lying to the world accountable for their incompetence, you had the audacity to run a piece on the Monday night news to the effect of "Camille -- there was a real storm."

If you truly think the disorganized bunglers who comprise the president's "Homeland Security" henchmen have not proven themselves to be completely incompetent, I sure hope the next catastrophe hits the town where you and the rest of CBS News' smug employees live. In the meantime, how about some real reporting instead of this apology for people who don't even slightly deserve it.

No wonder we have the worst president, ever.
David Brown, Renfrew, PA



Granted, perhaps now is not the time for a discussion about global warming as a possible contributing factor to Katrina.

Let us note, however, that in order to divert funding to a war in Iraq, the Bush administration repeatedly cut requested funding to repair the New Orleans levees that broke in the wake of Katrina, leaving an entire city half-submerged and evacuated. Let us note that over half of the National Guardsmen (and their equipment) needed to save desperate New Orleans residents in this time of catastrophe are in Iraq. And let us note that the war in Iraq was started by our administration for reasons that have been, one by one, been proved misleading.

It isn't partisan sniping to write articles that explicate how the means for preventing the catastrophe in New Orleans were diverted for an unnecessary war: it's holding the current administration accountable for its disastrous actions. That's what the media should be doing right now -- I wish you would put aside your partisan politics to do that, instead of using column space for frivolity.
Maya Gurantz



Once again, a moronic, simple minded editorial from Dick Meyer. He actually quotes one of the most vile and hypocritical people in America -- Rush Limbaugh to attack Robert Kennedy (a passionate defender of the environment).

Rush Limbaugh for years has ignored real scientist on Global warming and its impact including extreme hurricanes -- the Bush administration has ignored plans for fixing New Orleans levy system and deferred the money for the war in Iraq -- both deserve blame in this mess and NO it should not wait for pathetic shills like Dick Meyers to sweep their culpability under the carpet.

What actual purpose does Dick Meyer serve other than to play toady to Bush and Limbaugh? Quit wasting my time and others on crap like Dick Meyers and his moron personnel opinions!
W.R. White


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