Politicians Must Do The Dialogue, Not Just The Drama
Motives for dialogue between people of hugely different perspectives may be complex, but the need maintain communication is reiterated across at least modern history. Politicians as disparate as Winston Churchill, Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton have all maintained this view at various times.
‘To jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war’, in U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill‘s famous line at an American White House luncheon in 1954, is consistently good advice.
Churchill, as is well acknowledged, was not averse to drama alongside dialogue – he actually won the 1953 Nobel Prize for literature for his ‘mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values’. But he knew the talking was always at least as important as the posturing.
Consensus across the divides
It’s interesting to see this position reflected half a century or more later in the position of two modern American politicians who stand both apart from Churchill and from each other.
First, we had right-wing U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice visitng the U.K.’s then-Foreign Secretary, the centre left-wing Jack Straw in North West England, and proclaiming herself comfortable with the protests which greeted her at some events. “Oh, it’s OK, people have a right to protest and a right to make their views known,” she is reported to have said.
And then we learn that Senator Hillary Clinton has kind things to say about the ‘charm and charisma’ of President George Bush, the Republican who followed her Democrat husband into the White House. Senator Clinton said of the President that she had been “very grateful to him for his support for New York” after the attacks on September 11 2001. Though the two had had “many disagreements” he had been “very willing to talk”.
Mixed motives, but still sensible?
We can all of course guess that things are not really as proclaimed, when politicians of different hues profess a keeness for dialogue between themselves. Condoleeza Rice very probably wanted to make things a little easier for her host, Jack Straw. Hillary Clinton was, it is thought, attending to the need to ‘woo the right’ in her bid to secure the next Presidential election.
But mixed motives don’t necessarily make for bad action. Given a bottom line, almost every one of us would prefer that people keep talking, to the alternative. Better to keep the lines open, than to close them, wherever and whenever we can.