Peter Beinart has been at The New Republic since 1999, where he is a journalist and editor-at-large. He is also a contributor to Time magazine and writes a monthly column for the Washington Post. Beinart graduated in 1993 from Yale University, where he was a member of the Yale Political Union. In 1995, he received his MA in international relations from Oxford University, which he attended on a Rhodes Scholarship. Critical of the Bush administration's handling of the war and its aftermath, Beinart was nonetheless a vocal supporter of the war itself, defending that position on the PBS show Buying The War, with Bill Moyers. However, in Beinart's book, The Good Fight: Why Liberals-and Only Liberals-Can Win the War on Terror and Make America Great Again (2006), which he expanded from an essay as a guest scholar at The Brookings Institution, he renounced his position, claiming that if he'd known then what he knows now about the capitulation of the War on Terror, he wouldn't have supported it in the first place. Beinart is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Question: What needs to change in the media today?
Peter Beinart: Well media is an enormously broad thing. And the media . . . and media is really, in some ways, just a mechanism of transmission. So media includes everybody who puts on a TV show, or a radio show, or a magazine. So it includes The New York Times and National Enquirer. And now with the Internet, includes vast, vast swaths of humanity. So I am loathe to generalize about the media. The media is not a profession in the way that accountants or dentists are a profession. Not everyone in the media is doing fundamentally the same thing. All they are doing is using some mechanism of transmission. I think when one talks about the people who write about politics in the United States, I think that . . . and certainly when one looks at television and, to some degree, print, it’s virtually impossible to generalize about the blogosphere and the world of Internet because it is so many disparate voices of every possible stripe. But I think as a general rule, I think there is not enough historical perspective on American politics. There is not enough of an effort to engage in a really substantive and honest, thoughtful way with the . . . and try to understand the motivations of people on the other side, as opposed to simply being involved in kind of “debaters points” with them. And I think that American understanding of the rest of the world, and America’s ability to see things through the eyes of people in other societies – which is historically something which has been very important for American . . . the success of American foreign policy – I think that’s also, to some degree, quite . . . quite lacking in the . . . in the . . . in the . . . in the coverage of politics and foreign policy in the United States.
Recorded On: 09/12/07