By HOPPY KERCHEVAL
David Lindorff likes to debate. I could tell after talking with him for just a few minutes.
The award-winning liberal journalist came on my show June 4 to talk about his appearance in West Virginia and his book: "The Case for
Impeachment: The Legal Arguments for removing George W. Bush from Office."
I thought about not having him on. After all, impeachment is not on the radar screen, even among the most rabid Democratic opponents of the president.
I went back and forth in my mind and finally decided to interview him for two reasons: Lindorff was speaking in West Virginia (West Virginia State University) and if I'm going to talk a big game about "having the debate" then I actually have to follow through.
In our 20 minutes together, Lindorff and I disagreed in many areas, including whether the president should be impeached (I don't think he
should) and whether we are actually at war.
To hear Lindorff, the "war on terror" sounds more like a marketing campaign. In Lindorff's words, "The 'war on terror' is no more a war than the 'war on drugs' is a war. It's a terminology that we consciously used to tell us that we are at war, but we're not at war."
I agree that for those without a close relative or friend in the military, it can seem as if life is pretty much unchanged. We have the luxury-or perhaps the sublime stupidity-to be more interested in Paris Hilton going to jail than our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Perhaps as long as there is no shared sacrifice, then there won't be a collective sense in this country that we are at war.
But the perception is not the reality. If you just take a moment to refocus on Iraq, to watch the video of the Al Qaeda spokesman issuing more threats, pay attention to the news about the planned assault at JFK or revisit what happened on 9/11, then it becomes imminently clear we're in the middle of a war.
Lindorff, however, strikes a chord with me when he talks about the Constitution. The investigative reporter and author believes President Bush has run roughshod over it by abusing executive authority and the Congress has let him get away with it.
If Bush has gone beyond the bounds he's not the first. The executive has become increasingly powerful over the last generation as members of Congress have shown more interest in spin, polls, partisan politics and re-election.
One of the exceptions has been the venerable Senator Robert Byrd. But anymore, Byrd seems to be viewed more as a curiosity when he grabs his well-worn copy of the Constitution from his breast pocket and begins to opine.
The Constitution is the golden framework of our great democracy. It has endured for over 200 years and so far survived countless attempts to make it fit the immediate need. Our current governing culture focuses on politicians, personalities and power, but ultimately the operation of government-whoever the principals are-is dictated and constrained by the Constitution.
True, the execution of power as allowed by the Constitution, whether to make war or run the government, is open to debate, but it's that debate that's lacking.
The benefit of talking with smart people with whom you don't agree is that it makes you think. Occasionally, you might even find some common ground, something that unfortunately does not fit the media template today.
Kercheval is vice president of operations for MetroNews and the host of Talkline, which has become a signature program of the network.