Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Begala warns against apathy

When Paul Begala told his father, a Texas oil businessman, that he planned to pursue a career in politics, his father warned him about joining such a “dirty” profession. Begala responded, “Yeah, not like oil in Texas, Dad.”

Before a sparse crowd at Norris University Center’s McCormick Auditorium, Begala, a former senior aide and campaign manager to President Clinton, urged students to counter a growing contempt of politics by getting involved.

“The enemy of freedom is terrorism – yes – but it is also cynicism,” Begala said. “It is the basis of our culture and it is corrosive.”

While conservatives consider the media “liberal” and liberals call it “corporate,” Begala said the media has become jaded. “Too many people in the media will tell you that (politics) is all bull,” he said.

Tuesday night’s speech, sponsored by College Democrats, drew about 70 people. In addition to calling on students to act, Begala touched on a host of other topics, from domestic and international politics to the “two fuels” that helped him get through college – gas and beer.

At one point, Begala complimented President Bush, whom he has previously lambasted, on his handling of the terrorist attacks and war on terrorism. But he also stressed his disagreement with Republican stances on “the three E’s”: economy, entitlement and Enron.

“You talk about any one of the three E’s, and these Republicans run from you like the devil from holy water,” he said.

Begala, who served as President Clinton’s principal spokesman during his second term, said Clinton lured him away from his job as a professor by appealing to his desire for a more exciting profession. But after six months on the job in the White House, Begala started spending much of his time dealing with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which he said he was not happy about.

When Begala told Clinton he was not doing the sort of work he had hoped to do, Clinton said, “You’re the one who said you wanted excitement.”

Even though the job brought up tough questions about loyalty, Begala said he enjoyed his duties.

“What if you have to be loyal to two things?” he said. “What if you have to be loyal to a set of values that say one must never lie, especially if you’re in a high governmental position, and then on the other side of this is this really deep personal and powerful and political impression of loyalty that I have with (Clinton)?”

Although Begala criticized cynicism, Tali Zechory, Weinberg sophomore and vice president of College Democrats, said the word has different definitions and is not always detrimental.

“When cynicism is interpreted just as dissent and criticism, that’s wrong. It’s a vital part of democracy,” Zechory said. “When cynicism leads to apathy, I think that’s the biggest danger that we’re facing.”

Zechory disagrees with the popular belief that Northwestern students are apathetic.

“We might not be an activist campus, but we want to learn,” she said. “Just because we’re not marching doesn’t mean that we don’t care. When people turn out for events like this … that shows that we care just as much as marching.”

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Begala warns against apathy