Patterico's Pontifications


DRJ and Levi Debate Obama and Wright

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 12:04 pm

[UPDATE: You can follow the debate itself at this page.]

I’m finally getting around to setting up the debate between DRJ and Levi on the issue of Barack Obama and the significance of Jeremiah Wright’s statements.

For those of you who don’t obsessively follow the comments, here’s the deal. We have a relatively new liberal commenter named Levi and a long-time conservative commenter named DRJ. Levi tends to berate Republicans because, like many liberals, he is convinced that our policies have had disastrous effects, and that liberal policies would have been far better. He feels quite self-righteous about this view, and consequently feels perfectly justified in berating us Republicans for continuing to advocate our policies.

In a comment thread about Tim Russert’s death, in which Levi was typically alienating a number of commenters by calling the Republican position on various issues “stupid,” my very patient commenter DRJ said:

Patterico has repeatedly asked commenters to state in fair and accurate terms the arguments of their opponents. That’s the basis for discussion – where you show you understand the other person’s argument without mischaracterizing or demonizing it. I’m willing to do that with you. Are you willing to do that with me? I haven’t seen it so far.

A challenge arose: could Levi 1) fairly state DRJ’s position on any given issue, to her satisfaction, and 2) civilly debate that issue without insults, ad hominems, or mischaracterizations of position?

If Levi could meet goal #1, I would PayPal him 10 dollars. If Levi wanted to go double or nothing, he could attempt to comply with goal #2. If he succeeds, I will PayPal him 20 dollars. As consideration for her participation, DRJ gets the right, in her sole judgment, to ban Levi from this blog for a period of 10 days. (In fact, I will grant her the greater freedom to ban him for as long as she wants.)

In our previous post, we managed to meet goal #1. We got Levi and DRJ to state each other’s positions on a particular issue to each other’s satisfaction. The issue was the significance of Rev. Wright’s statements to the candidacy of Barack Obama. It took well over 300 comments to get there, but we got there.

This post represents the double or nothing.

Levi will be defending this position:


Liberals believe that Jeremiah Wright’s statements are irrelevant because Barack Obama is not responsible for statements other people make. The overwhelming national support for Barack Obama, extensive anti-Bush sentiment, and McCain’s lackluster support from his base make it virtually impossible for the GOP to win this election so conservatives are willing to do or say anything to win, including exploiting racism.

DRJ expressed the liberal position here. In this comment, Levi stated that this quote fairly encapsulates his own position.

DRJ will be defending this position:


Republicans believe that Jeremiah Wright is racist and un-American, and they evidence this with statements excerpted from his sermons such as ‘God Damn America’ and ‘America’s chickens coming home to roost,’ as well as Wright’s church’s citing of David Cone’s black liberation theology as one of their core philosophies. Further, they believe that due to the fact that Barack Obama attended Wright’s church for 20 years, was married there, and had his kids baptized there, there is a fatal flaw in Barack Obama’s judgment that would permeate through his potential Presidency and do great damage to the country, and that Obama might very well be as racist and un-American as Rev. Wright.

Levi expressed that conservative position here. In this comment, DRJ stated that this quote fairly encapsulates her own position.

Here are the ground rules. I’m adding to the rules, so if Levi decides this is too tough, he can bow out ignominiously now and simply collect his ten dollars. I will be the sole judge of whether the rules have been met.

  • Each side will be required to debate the above propositions, without insults, for at least ten substantive, meaningful comments each.
  • In order to win, each side must muster at least ten comments that each assert, with a link, at least one fact that is meaningful and relevant to the proposition being debated.

    The asserted fact must be supported by a link to reliable source material. The source material must support the assertion made in the comment. Not every comment must follow this rule, but you must achieve at least ten comments that do. Once you achieve this ten times, you are free to continue the debate without following this rule.

  • No distortions of the other person’s position.

    If, at any time, one party misstates the other’s position, the party whose position has been misstated can (and should) suspend the contest by saying: “That’s not my argument.” Then, they should explain what their argument is. At that point, the other party is required to restate the argument in their own words, in terms satisfactory to the person claiming their argument was distorted. The contest is suspended during this period of time, and comments made during a “That’s not my argument” period do not count towards the ten comments. The party who is accused of misstating the argument may not whine, or try to argue that he or she really did state the other person’s position fairly. I will monitor the thread for any indication of bad faith.

  • Heckling by onlookers is permitted.
  • No insults permitted by DRJ or Levi — towards ANYONE — for the pendency of this thread.

    Yes, that means that people can heckle you and you can’t heckle back. Life is tough.

  • I reserve the right to modify or add to these rules, in my sole discretion, during the contest, to respond to unforeseen problems.

If Levi manages to comply with all of the rules for 10 substantive comments per side, I will PayPal him 20 cool dollars in cash.

Let the contest begin. DRJ, Levi: in your first comment, please say: “I accept these rules” before moving on to your comment.

UPDATE: Dana R. Pico has made an excellent suggestion: that I create a separate page for the debate so that readers can follow it without wading through the comments. I have done so here. I will add their comments to that page as the comments come in, and as I have time. During weekdays, the updating will occur only during mornings and evenings.

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