He told his left-leaning audience of about 500 journalists to consider opposing views and appreciate the value of working with people who differ with them. He urged them not to turn public figures into "two-dimensional cartoons."
While he doesn't agree with much of the Bush administration policies, Clinton said, he has come to understand President Bush better. Clinton said Bush has "an intuitive intelligence," provoking laughter from the audience. But Clinton said he meant that seriously.
What concerns him more, he said, is a particular strain of the Republican Party that he said has gotten control in Washington. Reminding his audience that he grew up in the South as a native of Arkansas, Clinton said right-wing ideologues and "ultra-conservative, white Southerners" have "demonized" those who think differently from them.
Some will no doubt roll their eyes at Clinton's preaching and argue that he still downplays the demonizing that liberals do (including Al Gore's denunciation of critics of race-based preferences as people who "use their color blind the way duck hunters use a duck blind -- they hide behind it and hope the ducks won't notice"). Still, these days I find a bit of hypocrisy better than honest bashing.
Joe's own comment is worth reposting in its entirety:
The politics of demonization (which is also practiced by some Democrats as well) has infected the content and tone of national debate, the tenor of generally-polarized radio talk shows and, most definitely, the blogosphere where some think that if someone writes a differing idea they MUST be the Enemy.
There was even a case of a progressive blogger being driven from posting because his anonymous identity was exposed (see here and follow up here). It's quite notable that you don't see bloggers exposing the identities (or running the private phone numbers on their blogs) of people they AGREE WITH. Just why do you think that's the case?
FOOTNOTE TO READERS: I met this same progressive blogger who wanted to protect his identity at a Stanford University conference on blogging last year. How? Another progressive blogger at the conference made a blanket statement swiping at conservative bloggers and THIS progressive blogger got up to DEFEND the integrity of conservative bloggers on the panel and some others associated with them as people who seriously debated issues in good faith.
And, indeed, later I was invited to drinks at a table that included that same anonymous blogger on the left and several bloggers on the right, who proceeded to energetically discuss political issues but but weren't out to destroy each other — and who didn't feel that just because someone disagreed they were the enemy and that they would not read or link to them or would de-link them.
So there are thoughtful, constructive people with different ideas out there in politics and the blogosphere. Will the political and blog cultures drive them away?
The answer, I suspect, is yes. I often disagree with Joe Gandelman, but he deserves nothing but plaudits for being a voice of moderation in the blogosphere and being open to discussion across the lines of right and left. Thanks, Joe.