Dana Milbank was on C-Span's Afterwords program pushing his new book, Homo Politicus. A cute discussion.
Milbank struggled when asked what was Taboo in Washington. He responded that you didn't really know until you broke one, and cited McCain in 2000 insulting fundamentalists and McKinney hitting a police officer. I don't think that's Milbank being naive, I think it's a genuinely hard question for someone in Washington to answer. Taboos aren't just rules, they're untouchable, unthinkable. Asking someone what is taboo is like asking a blind person to describe what they can't see. On the other hand politicians and media personalities do a pretty good job avoiding taboos (Milbank, who writes 4 columns a week can only cite two transgressions from the last 7 years!) so they must be at least subconsciously aware of them.
My picks for current taboos (broken by party)
- Racism among whites
- Homosexuality (except in the context of bashing it)
- The self-contradiction in being an "anti-government" politician
- The reality that what makes a government unique is it's ability to use legal coercion: That any time the government tries to solve a problem, to the extent that it is doing more then what an individual or non-profit could do, it is using coercion. In that sense the heart of classical liberalism is not in government at all.
For both parties:
- Criticizing the place of Israel in American foreign policy
- Saying that "sunken costs are sunken costs" with respect to Iraq