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July 21, 2008
Welcome to Silly
The New Yorker cartoon. The “controversial comments” by Jesse
Jackson, as well as those of Phil Gramm, Wesley Clark and numerous
others. A “joke” about “ape rape” that John McCain supposedly told years
All have been major stories in the presidential campaign in recent
weeks. And none, absolutely none, will have the slightest effect on who
Welcome to Silly Season. With the candidates chosen and the general
election match-up set, the presidential campaign has entered a lull of
several months in which there is no voting and no other official events.
With the Democratic campaign extending into June, for months and months
there were debates, primaries, caucuses, or more than one of the above
just about every week. Now, there's nothing.
To use a sports analogy, imagine if the NFL played the regular season,
then had the playoffs, and then followed that with a six-month break
before the Super Bowl. The sports media is already notorious for
reaching for storylines in the time before the Super Bowl, and that’s
only two weeks. If you expand the break to six months, imagine the
garbage that floats to the surface. And that's what's happened in the
political media since the primaries ended.
Therefore, just about all campaign coverage, whether on cable news,
blogs or op-ed pages, is about one of a handful of things, none of which
are particularly important to who wins: Stupid, gaffe-related
controversies, vice-presidential speculation, premature and wildly
contradictory polling data, the constant hunt for flip-flops, position
changes and minute shifts to the left, right or center, questions about
Hillary Clinton’s role, or breathless analysis of the electoral map.
Why do you think Barack Obama’s trip to Europe and the Middle East is
being accompanied by a large media entourage, including all three
network news anchors? They need to somehow try to find some news.
I’m not saying the media is horrible for concentrating on these things –
I’ve certainly written my fair share about them myself. Clearly, there
is unprecedented interest in this election campaign, and political
junkies have quite an appetite for any and all news – and TV programmers
and editors have time and space to fill. But commentators on the
election could stand to concentrate more on the things that actually
matter, especially the issues.
what of these silly controversies? Barry Blitt’s New Yorker
cover, featuring Barack Obama dressed in Islamic garb and Michelle Obama
as a machine gun-toting Angela Davis, was a brilliant piece of satire
that, like many of its kind, was misunderstood by an alarmingly large
amount of people.
Liberals reacted embarrassingly – led by the uncharacteristically
tone-deaf Obama campaign response – while conservatives didn’t act much
better. When the loony web site World Net Daily polled its readers on
their opinion of the cover, 59 percent answered “the image isn't too far
from the dangerous truth about the Obama family,” while another 12
percent said “funny, because there's some truth in it.”
for the Jackson comments, I don’t see how the civil rights leader
insulting Obama is going to convince anyone whether to vote for or
against the candidate. I’m just wondering how Jackson could be
boneheaded enough to say something so incendiary in front of cameras in
a Fox News studio and not expect the videotape to surface.
As for the Clark and Gramm controversies, I’m just surprised that
has-been failed presidential candidates like Clark and Gramm should have
anything to do with who becomes the next president. And McCain’s “rape”
joke, which won’t be repeated here? It’s not so much offensive as it is
proof that the GOP candidate has an incredibly unwieldy sense of humor.
for the “lurching” by candidates, Obama was accused by New York Times
columnist Bob Herbert as “lurching right when it suits him,” and by
conservative blogger and radio host Hugh Hewitt of undertaking a series
of “flip flops and lurches left." Exactly how much lurching can one man
Luckily, actual events will resume next month, with the conventions and
veep picks taking place, followed by debates, followed by the election
itself. Do I trust the pundits to report and analyze those with fairness
and sharpness? Not necessarily, but at least what they’re talking about
will be actual news.
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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