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Walter Cronkite and the Summer of ’69: A Reflection – Blogcritics Culture

Walter Cronkite and the Summer of ’69: A Reflection – Blogcritics Culture

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Barack Obama: “Enough!”

To echo Barack Obama: “Enough!” Enough of the politics of playground!

We’ve all been through it. Mostly when we were kids or teenagers, serious and resolute about something important (to us, anyway). And every time we endeavored to open our mouths to start talking about whatever that “it” was, someone else, usually the brat on the playground would start making annoying noises to pull the focus away “neener, neener, neener” “nya, nya, nya, nya, nya.” And we’d never get to articulate what that really important thing was. The annoying kid was such a huge distraction that even when we finally got to say what we meant to say, it was too late, because everyone was focused on the annoying brat.

Pigs with lipstick. Sex education for kindergartners. Pregnant teenagers. The list goes on. Geez, people. Get real, here.

When some wise person coined the term “politics of distraction,” this is what they meant. This country has so many problems right now caused by seven years of an inept, power-hungry, arrogant, destructive administration that it will take years of hard work to undo the damage (which we’ll only begin to understand in January after it’s mercifully put out of office). And this is what we’re talking about? Liptick on pigs? Give me a f-ing break.

I have an idea why the McCain campaign has kept Sarah Palin practically vacuum sealed from the press, and it isn’t exclusively because once she has to start answering real questions about her term as Governor and her time as Mayor of Wasilla she’ll melt down (like the northern reaches of her home state). No. It’s because as long as we’re all trying to figure her out: the rumors and the facts, the mythology versus the reality, we’re not talking about the issues: the “are you better now than you were eight years ago” issues. And by the time we get to the debates, the rancor will be so great that if anyone’s still paying attention at all, this side show will still dominate. It’s all of a plan.

No. Because once we start talking about the actual issues. McCain loses. No matter how hard he wishes or wants to believe it ain’t so, he chose a path several years ago that put him into bed with the Bushies and the Cheneys and the Rovies. McCain’s campaign has a bit of the Wizard of Oz in it: “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.” But like in Oz, the curtain eventually gets lifted to reveal a sham and a charlatan. Agent of change? Really? To listen to him (and everyone else speaking at the Republican convention) you’d have thought McCain was running as the head of the party out of power. Maverick? And that image, although once true (I actually once thought a McCain presidency would be a good thing) can no longer be claimed. To me he is the “Candidate Formerly Known as Maverick.”

So whose fault is it? I suppose you can’t really blame McCain. Is it the media, with its often “short attention-span news” take on world? Its often “he said, she said” approach, where giving both sides precludes any real sense of right vs. wrong? Fact vs. myth? Is it Obama’s fault for not hitting back harder? For trying to stick with issues and not get sidetracked by the bullsh*t?

I echo what Obama said yesterday in a speech. “Enough.” I want Obama to make John McCain talk about the issues. I want someone to insist that McCain and Palin actually talk to the press about issues. Not slogans. Not sniper fire. Issues: the economy, energy independence, Iraq (and not just the surge), Iran, Russia, climate change. I want to know what they’re going to do. I also want to know where their beliefs are: where do they stand on separation of church and state? Where do they stand on stem cell research now (and not eight years ago). I want to know where they stand on climate change. On health care. On social security (hey, I’m in my early 50s!). I want to know McCain’s and Obama’s vision for America; for reinvigorating the economy. And it’s not more tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent. Because it’s seven years post Bush’s election, and if I’m not mistaken, Bush’s trickle-down economic theory just hasn’t worked.

I demand that real reporters leave the politics of personality to US Weekly, TheNational Enquirer and People. Let them have fun. Your job as reporters is to report on the important. Not to host a debate on what “lipstick on a pig” meant in a speech. Your job is to remember that there aren’t always two sides to a story that are equally correct. Politics isn’t always Rashamon; it isn’t always Kipling and his five blind men with the elephant. Sometimes right is right and wrong is wrong. A lie is sometimes a lie, and not just a differing opinion. And a big lie isn’t less so just because it’s a big lie. And an often told lie. Maybe it’s just a lie. And your job (or so I thought) was to figure that out; expose it when necessary and call foul when it happens.

And maybe that’s finally happening. There are certainly signs of it. And what is Obama’s responsibility? Well, sometimes when that annoying playground brat won’t shut up on his own, you just gotta do it yourself. As much as Obama wants to keep it on the issues, he has to hit, and hit hard. McCain spoiling for a playground fight? I think Obama is about to grant his wish. And as unfortunate as that may be, taking more yet days away from discussing the issues, I don’t think Obama has a choice. Because, I, like Obama, have had enough!

Gotcha Politics and Sound-Bite Journalism

“Gotcha” politics has got to go.  And I think that time is here and now.  I want to thank George Stephanopoulos (who has, in my humble opinion, lost all credibility as an intelligent political voice), Charlie Gibson (who never really had it) and ABC for making it possible. 

Finally, we are having a debate about debate; about political discourse and about the media’s coverage of politics via soundbite, innuendo and a series of “gotchas.”  Last night was, perhaps, the tipping point; the straw that broke the camel’s back.  A ninety minute debate and for the first 45 minutes, not one bit of policy was discussed.  Not one merest suggestion of an issue was raised. 

Call me an elitist, but to question Barack Obama as to whether he “believes in the flag,” (whatever the hell that’s supposed to mean) would be insulting, if it weren’t so ridiculous.  That Obama chose to actually answer showed him to be a man a lot more tolerant than I would have been.  (Beside the fact that I’m not a man.) 

This country is in an endless and fruitless war.  This country is in a recession; threatening to veer into the sort of stagflation I remember when I was just getting out of college in the late seventies.  Global warming is breaking off big chunks of ice fields (and George Bush’s plan is to begin to cut emissions in 12-15 years-that is, after they’re allowed to peak in 10 years.)  Our cities’ infrastructures are crumbling and our military is stretched too thin; Iran continues its nuclear program and in Afghanistan, the Taliban grow more powerful (hey, I thought we won that war) with each passing week.  And the media want to talk about David Ayers, a 60s radical.  Hey, Congressman Bobby Rush was a 60s radical too.  And former Tom Hayden.  Even Chicago Mayor Richard Daley (he, the son of Richard J– who helped all hell break loose in 1968 at the democratic convention) thinks its ridiculous to bring up William Ayers, who is a professor at the University of Illinois.

But yesterday, Obama countered.  He called this for what it is; and for what it is not.  The time has come, he said to talk about substance.  The post-debate coverage has been less about who said what, or who did what, than the substance of the questions themselves.  And I say it’s about damn time.  Criticism of Stephanopoulos, Gibson by people like Tom Shales, <i>Editor and Publisher </i> and others in the media and public life have dominated the discussion.

Last night Obama made a surprise appearance on the <i>The Colbert Report,</i> placing the word “distractions” on Colbert’s “on notice” board.  Distractions like the trivial questions coming from the real issues, when the issues are as serious as they are in this election, are not useful and are examples of lazy journalism. I’m not saying ONLY policy issues should be discussed; and character is an important thing to examine.  But when “journalists” insist on spending 75 percent of their coverage on distractions, and not at taking a hard look at the differences between the candidates (including the differences between the two democrats and John McCain) they are doing us all a disservice. 

So, maybe, finally, in the aftermath of the ABC debate, the main stream media are put on notice to discuss issues; real substance.  Not whether a candidate “believes” in the flag.  The stakes are too high to do otherwise.