These days media pundits as well as candidates seem to have an agenda that varies in terms of accuracy and informational value. Many voters tend to rely on public figures who articulate their own entrenched opinions no matter how narrow and ill-founded they may be. Much air and print time is spent on non-issues or broad generalizations that do little to inform rational debate and so making informed decisions about who has the judgment and character to lead the country becomes a daunting task for the electorate.
Commentators, on TV and radio particularly, offer up either extreme partisan rants or a pretense of cogent analysis. Indeed it has become clear over time that interviewers protect their relationships with pols in order, one assumes, to ensure continued access to the halls of power. Tim Russert is very good at this, having recently avoided pressing McCain about statements not totally supported by facts on Meet The Press. And Hardball’s Chris Matthews often ends an interview by saying nice things to interviewees – – “you’re a good guy” to Ed Rollins and “you’re in my heart” to John McCain. Apparently such addendum remarks fall into the category of ‘just in case…’
It is especially disappointing when an advocacy group like NOW takes a stand against Senator Kennedy’s support of Barack Obama as if he had stabbed the issue of women’s rights through its political heart. Can women be made to appear any more ridiculous as a voting bloc than to expect their acquiescence with what appears to be NOW’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton? No doubt this is a subject that will be discussed ad- nauseam in the coming days by a gleeful media.
And although it would probably be best to ignore the likes of Rush Limbaugh and others at the margins, they have recently derived greater legitimacy due to the attentions paid them by traditional media sources who have begun to comment on their influence as shapers of political opinion among a vast, adoring audience. Unfortunately, for the country right-wing radio isn’t always a friend of truth playing more often to the prejudices and limited views of its listeners.
The rule of thumb seems to be that if you don’t know what you’re talking about but wish to frame a partisan point, you just make stuff up – – hence during the last election Limbaugh cracked that the NY Times supported Senate candidate Sherrod Brown, in its “liberal” way, because he was black although Brown was in fact white, no pun intended. It would seem Rush mistakenly assumed that such a name must belong to a black person. And so it goes today, with his endless attacks accusing McCain of being, horrors, a liberal despite an overwhelmingly conservative voting record in the Senate.
But for those who think McCain is something of a knight in shining armor he has, over time, begun to use the same tactics the Bush people used against him in 2000. And his support of the Bush foreign policy and a continued presence of American troops in Iraq call into question his ability to assess an ever-changing landscape and to reassure a country that desperately wants out of Iraq. His embrace of evangelical leaders he once described as “agents of intolerance” and his factually-weak attacks on Mitt Romney have diminished his standing as an honest guy above approach. Now with Giuliani out of the race and endorsing McCain it is more than a little unsettling to imagine what role Mr. 9/11 might play in a McCain administration.
And what of our homegrown problems in Louisiana and Mississippi still reeling from the effects of Katrina’s onslaught in 2005 where a backlog of complaints regarding the misapplication of funds and dreadful living conditions continue. Who besides John Edwards has paid much attention to these beleaguered masses? Does anyone recall that as the hurricane hit and the first levee was breached and despite having been warned about an impending disaster, the president stopped off in Arizona to celebrate John McCain’s birthday, sharing cake with him as all hell broke loose in New Orleans. Against the backdrop of trapped, terrified residents that is not a pretty picture.
There are many ways to take the measure of a man or woman, but too often we are sidetracked by the minutia of what an over-stretched media puts before us in the conduct of its 24/7 operations. Thus the viewing/listening public remains less well-informed than all that expended air and print time would suggest.