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Hedrick Smith: Can we heal our great divide?

President Obama speaks to President Bush to mark the end of combat operations in Iraq; hopefully the conversation went better than the polarized commentary since

Obama in his presidential address Tuesday night:

“This afternoon I spoke to former President George W. Bush. It’s well known that he and I disagreed about the war from its outset. Yet no one can doubt President Bush’s support for our troops or his love of country and commitment to our security. As I said, there were patriots who supported this war and patriots who opposed it. All of us are united in appreciation for our servicemen and servicewomen and our hopes for Iraq’s future.”

“The greatness of our democracy is grounded in our ability to move beyond our differences, to learn from our experience as we confront the many challenges ahead.”

And as night follows day… Commentary from the left since the address were angry Obama would give Bush anything given what they see as the catastrophic nature of the decision to invade Iraq and the falsehoods that led to it. And from the right they accused him of having no class because he didn’t outright credit Bush for the surge (on Limbaugh the guest host said it was a “small speech by a small man”).

In this environment, it’s hard to know how anyone can lead us.

Our new season: The Divided State of America

Just sent our new Dinner at the Square program off to the printer (Find season info HERE). Here’s your sneak peak:

“Backfire” explains a lot.

Joe Keohane writes a powerful piece on how our entrenched political opinion resists fact that contradicts it. Here’s a snip of an article that’s just so good that it’s going straight into the Village Square library, but we’d strongly recommend you head straight to Boston.com and read the whole piece.

Recently, a few political scientists have begun to discover a human tendency deeply discouraging to anyone with faith in the power of information. It’s this: Facts don’t necessarily have the power to change our minds. In fact, quite the opposite. In a series of studies in 2005 and 2006, researchers at the University of Michigan found that when misinformed people, particularly political partisans, were exposed to corrected facts in news stories, they rarely changed their minds. In fact, they often became even more strongly set in their beliefs. Facts, they found, were not curing misinformation. Like an underpowered antibiotic, facts could actually make misinformation even stronger.

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters – the people making decisions about how the country runs – aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

The general idea is that it’s absolutely threatening to admit you’re wrong, says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon – known as “backfire” – is “a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance.”

Read the rest of the article HERE.

Purple Post: Glenn Beck amputates leg of wrong patient">My Purple Post: Glenn Beck amputates leg of wrong patient

(Why not hop on over to our friends at Purple State of Mind to read this post there and visit awhile as long as you’re there.)

Last week Glenn Beck used his infamous blackboards to write something I agree with. Beck says the cure to what ales us can be captured in a handful of words:

Hard work

Instead, Beck says what we’re doing can be more accurately described in a different handful:

Redistribution of wealth

(First a detour to say that I don’t think redistribution of wealth belongs in that list. I don’t think it is even clear it’s occurring. My husband and I got an $800 credit this year for just being employed – what a leftist pinko sort of idea – and returning to the tax code under Clinton hardly seems excessive to me in the sweep of the history of tax rates.)

But otherwise I think this comes close to nailing it. As many of us agree that Western civilization seems to be toying with circling the drain, it is in no small part because of the many excesses afforded by our affluence. And it isn’t just elected officials who seem so good at the behaviors bringing us down, it’s who George Will called the “vaunted American voter.”

Yep. We have met the enemy and it is us. And if there is any hope for our future the first step – as any AA member knows – is admitting we’ve got a problem.

It is a moment for posterity when someone who leans left can watch Glenn Beck and find they substantially agree on the largest issues confronting us as a nation. Only thing left is to turn our attention to what we know we must do, sacrifice together for the greatness of America.

Uh, notsofast.

According to Beck it’s only half of us who are engaging in such behaviors, it’s only half of our elected officials. It appears that Obama could wake up tomorrow as Barry Goldwater and Beck would still have him in his cross hairs. (It should be noted here that many on the left think he already has.) In the constant Congressional parade of acting out, Beck was only able to see half of the transgressions.

And we all know which half.

Meanwhile over at Countdown with Keith Olbermann most nights you can hear about the other half.

This should make it extremely clear that we are getting our information from people who are essentially helping us mainline IV heroin to benefit their ratings. Where I come from, we call them pushers. They want to give us what we want, who cares about what we need. Each evening, they draw the water on our respective warm bubble baths of agreement and self-righteousness.

But nobody, no matter how many blackboards they write on, can make you climb in.

(Photo credit.)