Tag Archives: republican

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. 

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Of Firing Squads and Democrats

A circular firing squad. It’s an apt metaphor for the democratic presidential campaign these days. I never, ever thought we’d be in this position. Although I’ve never been known as a political pessimist (hey, I was rooting for John Kerry way into the night in 2004), I have become one. Only the democrats could manage to turn this year’s presidential sure thing into a possible rout. OK, maybe it’s a bit hyperbolic to say so this early. But I’m beginning to dread the fall.

And who’d have thunk it? A long and costly (and unpopular) war; the unitary executive; the emasculation of Congress; the Supreme Court; an economy that everyone but George in Wonderland perceives as tanking; a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan that promises to erase any gains we may have made prior to Iraq; Blackwater; Halliburton; an army stretched to the brink, with stop-loss orders threatening the lives, livelihoods and well-being of our veterans; a health care system that is an embarrassment equal only to our loss of our credibility on the international stage. The list goes on. And on. And yet…let me get this right: Clinton and Obama are sniping at each other? Circular firing squad indeed.

The stakes are way too high this year to allow the Republicans to keep the castle…er…White House. Nearly eight years of damage cannot be piled atop another (even) four years of an imperialized Republican executive.

So, here’s my two cents worth (and in this economy, it’s not worth very much). Everyone just take a breath. Then readjust the circular formation and re-aim. But this time, instead of aiming at each other and assorted feet, this time take aim at the real enemy: John McCain and every up-for-election Republican who sits in the House and Senate. They’re the enemy. They’re the guys who’ve let our country fall apart and fall away from the values (yes, values) and ideals that make our country great.

But, you wisely ask, aren’t Obama and Clinton running against each other? How else can we figure out who should have the nomination if they don’t attack each other’s Achilles heels and other weaknesses? How, indeed. And thanks for asking.

Fight the enemy. Fight McCain. What better a target for practice? What better a test of wills? Of skills? Of merit? Who has the better claim against McCain? Show us. In real time. Because that’s what it’s all about, baby. Because that’s what’s going to matter in the final analysis.

You wanna see who should have the nomination? Fight McCain. Let us see you set the agenda against his, and theirs. Don’t give the guy a pass. Don’t let him embrace racists like Rod Parsley; demagogues like John Hagee. Don’t let him embrace eight years of a disastrous presidency and revise it to suit his (and the Republican agenda). Because, believe me, he will. And they will. You think Karl Rove has been vacationing in Aruba? You think those 527s have laid down their arms? No way. And while Hillary and Barack are taking pot shots firing at each other, they’re taking their eyes off the prize and watching it disintegrate into sand right in front of their (and our) eyes. They’re distracted from the real war; from the real fight.

Like I said, my advice isn’t worth a lot. So, I do think we’ll continue to see more of the same. Democrats shooting at each other and themselves in the foot as the Republicans plan the autumn offensive. And they’ll be ready. But the real question is: will the Democrats? This campaign sorely needs John Edwards back in the fray. I miss his role as “the adult candidate.”

So I will end with a plea to the adults in the upper echelons of the Democratic Party. Will someone: Howard Dean? Al Gore? Teddy Kennedy? Just someone (or all of you)—put a stop to this. For the sake of the party, for the sake of the race, for the sake of the country—and the sake of the planet.