Sometimes it seems that the more you hear from candidates and pundits these days the less you really know about issues. Considering the amount of time spent discussing the economy, foreign affairs, immigration, and the environment in what has become a 24-hour news cycle it is amazing how poorly informed the public remains. Since it is deemed appropriate that all opinions find expression, the airwaves teem with contrasting views of questionable validity many of which do not warrant the attention they are given.
Over the past weekend talk shows of every description sought newsworthy status by attempting to get one guest or another to step into the abyss or give voice to some noteworthy if irrational point of view. Tim Russert, in his interview with Hillary Clinton, on “Meet The Press” played the tail-end of a clip with Bill Clinton’s “fairy-tail” comment regarding Barack Obama, as if he were criticizing Obama’s candidacy when it would seem to most fair-minded observers that his remarks referred not to the campaign in general but rather to statements about his position regarding the war in Iraq. Senator Clinton got this point across but had to struggle with Russert to do so. Still, maybe it would be better if Bill backed off a little. Even to supporters he’s getting a bit tiresome
And what, in any case, is the media up to when it belabors some of these statements in mind-numbing discussions that lead nowhere and have very little to do with substantive matters. In some cases it is important to get to the bottom of who said what to whom but often it becomes merely a descent to the bottom of the barrel as in the case of billionaire Clinton supporter, Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television. In castigating detractors he said the Clintons had long supported black issues. He then took the low road, however, saying that while they were so involved, Obama was “doing something in the neighborhood, and I won’t say what it was…” implying of course that he was up to no good. At a later point Johnson claimed he was referring to Obama’s community work, but most people aren’t that stupid and got his original inference.
On This Week with George Stephanopoulos Newt Ginrich showed up to discuss politics, being of course the author of “the contract with America” that seemed to work so well for Republicans during the Clinton administration. Ginrich is often held up as a ‘man of ideas’, a smart and engaging kind of elder statesman. Yet in discussing Michigan in light of the upcoming primary there he focused entirely on what he said were high taxes in that state. Not a word was spoken about the imploding automobile industry, the lost jobs or the impact of foreign trade agreements.
How Republican to dwell on taxes as the main culprit instead of on ways to expand the job market or to explore new ventures that would fill the void left by an industry that failed to adapt new technologies and consumer preferences until it was too late to redeem its lost market share. On Washington Journal the chairman of the Michigan Republican Party said that unreasonable café standards got in the way of successful product lines such as the SUVs and large trucks that Ford was producing. So, once again, the singular mind set would cling to the old way of doing business regardless of its impact on oil dependence, the environment or the future the labor market.
Even Senator McCain has said that people in Michigan will have to come to grips with the fact that many of the jobs that have been lost will never return, while Mitt Romney insists that he will turn things around – – nothing too specific mind you but a lot of talk about gold and silver medals as he conjures up happy memories of the time he managed the Olympics.
And what is one to make of the Democratic Party’s insistence on its rules about individual states moving the dates of their primaries around to compete with Iowa and New Hampshire? Sure there is something strange about those small unrepresentative states having such an impact on elections, but what is to be gained by not presenting a full slate of Democratic candidates in Michigan, by not having them campaign there and by offering instead a category called “uncommitted” on ballots?
If the goal of candidates and the media is to confuse and talk past issues this campaign season is right on course. But maybe as things progress, debate moderators will stop asking stupid questions, the parties will stop engaging in intramural slugfests and, hopefully, everyone will rise up from the bottom of the barrel and stick to facts.