Not Just Personal 

Anybody who has watched attentively the first few flurries of the national Republicans' contest for the GOP's presidential nomination in 2012 will have observed the striking incidence of conflicts, one-on-one and otherwise:

Romney vs. Pawlenty; Pawlenty vs. Bachmann; Ron Paul vs. the field; Newt Gingrich vs. the interrogating media; etc.      Poor Tim Pawlenty, the previously heralded governor of Minnesota, came out on the short end of both his throwdowns and, perhaps not coincidentally, in the first vote count of the presidential season — the GOP's quadrennial Iowa straw vote. Also not coincidentally, he's now out of the race. Texas governor Rick Perry is simultaneously in the race, and he's already tangling with former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and, like Gingrich, with a media feasting on his gaffes.

Since the aforesaid media has been keeping itself busy reporting on these conflicts, we fully expect to be hearing any day now from the same sets of purists who are forever objecting that reporters should be focusing entirely on "the issues" and not on personalities or "horse races."

Fine, advice taken, but put that cod liver oil back on the shelf. The fact is that the dustups we've seen so far lead directly to a knowledge of what the issues are — particularly in the case of Perry, who is being jumped for his rather primitive misunderstandings of economics (accusing Fed chairman Ben Bernanke of "treasonous" behavior) and science (disputing both evolution and climate change). And Ron Paul stands out in an opportunistic field not only for the legitimacy of his libertarian views but for his willingness to trade punches with his equivocating brethren on assorted matters of war and peace.

All of this is preamble to a brief statement on the nature of recent clashes on both the Memphis City Council and the Shelby County Commission. When the Flyer recently posted an online account of an angry email exchange between council chairman Myron Lowery and council member Wanda Halbert, some readers commented to the tune of "a plague on both their houses." We're not mandating that they should have picked sides, just noting that that particular dispute concerned certain issues of council procedure that were long overdue for a reexamination.

Similarly, a pair of mano-a-manos indulged in this week on the commission by Democrat and city-dweller Steve Mulroy and Republican and rural outlier Terry Roland were based not so much on personalities as on real issues — in one case, the legitimacy of and need for a county living-wage commission (Mulroy for, Roland against); in the other, radically different perspectives on the efficacy of selling the county's interest in the convention center to the city. Proponent Roland, a Millington resident, emphasized the county's gain from the sale of $75 million; Mulroy, a Midtowner, has long harbored doubts about the value of the Bass Pro/Pyramid deal, which the sale will facilitate.

Perhaps nowhere else do the personal and the philosophical and the pragmatic intersect so obviously as in politics and government. That's what makes it all worth watching — and reporting on.

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