Tony Blankley

Race, the yet unclosed scab that has run deep through our history, is about to be discussed as it never has been in a presidential election. In fairness to the United States, racial attitudes (or man's view of the "other" man) is a universal phenomenon that in most countries either goes unspoken or results in straight-out ethnic cleansing and murder. Here in America, in our earnest striving toward perfected tolerance and equality, we loquaciously agonize over our shortcomings -- and it is good that we do.

In this unprecedented election year, we run the risk of having two conversations: a polite public one that uses euphemisms or evasions about race and a nasty private one that is likely to dredge up the worst within us -- the conversation that won't be on television but will be on the Internet and on the subway and wherever people congregate to chat. I would argue that the more honest the public conversation is the less virulent the private one will be, and therein lies the path to maximum civic hygiene. Little drives people crazier than hearing official and public balderdash spoken (or worse, silence) about subjects that are cared about deeply.

And therein, I respectfully dissent from the comments last week by my friend and former Reagan White House staff colleague Peggy Noonan, who argued that it was "vulgar" and destructive of the body politic to talk about race. (She referred specifically to Hillary Clinton's "white people" remark. Peggy left open, sort of, the right of "bloviators" and hired hands to raise the dirty topic, but by implication, she suggested that no decent commentator would do such a thing.)

Vulgar? Yes, I will give Peggy that. But democratic politics is inherently vulgar. The first two definitions of vulgar in my dictionary are "of or associated with the great masses of people, common; spoken by or expressed in language spoken by the common people, vernacular."

Peggy always and deservedly will be on the short list of great White House speechwriters. Her specialty was (and is) the lyrical, the poetic, the allusion to the best, the sweetest and the finest that is America. And no chord of democratic music should be without those notes.

But those notes are not the full chord of democracy, and a chord with only those notes will not ring fully true to the public. There are also the gritty, contrapuntal tones that portray the edginess and tension of life. So that, for example, Beethoven's innovative use of the discordant dominant seventh chord took his music beyond the aristocratic perfection of Mozart and into the revolutionary age of the people's passion.

Tony Blankley

Tony Blankley, a conservative author and commentator who served as press secretary to Newt Gingrich during the 1990s, when Republicans took control of Congress, died Sunday January 8, 2012. He was 63.

Blankley, who had been suffering from stomach cancer, died Saturday night at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, his wife, Lynda Davis, said Sunday.

In his long career as a political operative and pundit, his most visible role was as a spokesman for and adviser to Gingrich from 1990 to 1997. Gingrich became House Speaker when Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives following the 1994 midterm elections.

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