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Voter IQ

Of Lipstick and Lies

[EDITORIAL NOTE: It is hard to keep up with fast-moving news. Crabby Old Lady wrote this story on Monday. Then Lehman Brothers collapsed, Merrill Lynch was sold off and AIG is on the brink which, at last, alerted the presidential candidates that there are real problems affecting voters.

In the wake of the Wall Street meltdown, we learned yesterday that the candidate who doesn't know how to do "the emails" invented the Blackberry and says the "fundamentals of the economy are strong" - the same man whose only-known previous economic experience is as a member of the Keating Five and an avowed supporter of banking deregulation. He now says he wants a commission to study the economy. Crabby is suddenly reminded of barn doors.

It is interesting that when "only" gas and food prices were soaring and the country was hemorrhaging middle-class jobs, the candidates talked of lipstick and swine. Now that Wall Street millionaires are losing their jobs, their portfolios and their companies, they finally admit there is a crisis.

Nevertheless, Crabby believes this post, written before the candidates got religion about the economy, still holds.]

While Wall Street collapses and the election campaign is mired in lipstick and lies, Crabby Old Lady has taken a step back over the past few days to try to get a handle on the bigger picture. It ain’t easy with all the fog of minutiae, but here is what it looks like to her from 30,000 feet.

The swiftboating of John Kerry was picayune compared to what the McCain/Palin campaign is doing in its television ads. Nearly every statement in them is a deliberate lie, as are the claims Governor Palin has made about her political career in Alaska. The more the media turns up of her past, the more appalling her policies are revealed to be, filled with cheating, vendetta and attempts to force her personal moral beliefs on the citizens of her state.

That is the essence of the Republican campaign.

The other side plugs along reactively while the candidate stutters and pauses through speeches sounding uncertain (as he did not in the primaries), nitpicking details as if he were still teaching law at the University of Chicago.

It is clear to Crabby that Senator Obama has a deeper understanding of the complexities of the country’s and the world’s problems than Senator McCain and is not prone to risky, gut reactions as McCain is. She supports Obama because the presidency desperately needs an injection of intelligent thoughtfulness. But that is called governing. What is needed now is campaigning, and the Democrats are failing at it.

A large part of the problem is the media; the only way voters have to evaluate candidates since it is impractical for us to question them ourselves. The media’s failure is catastrophic.

Crabby has no statistics (but she is probably not far off) that 90 percent of television campaign coverage involves reporters and pundits second guessing campaign managers. They see themselves as oh-so-smart and clever expounding day after day, even hour after hour, on what the candidates should and shouldn’t do or say.

That is not what we need. Crabby wants a side-by-side comparison of the candidate’s positions on the economy, food and gas prices, the war(s), jobs, healthcare and Medicare, taxes, Social Security, education, the deficit, corporate accountability, the Patriot and Military Commissions Acts, torture, domestic surveillance, the Wall Street crisis, the housing problem. And their general world views.

Print media is only slightly better than television. They spend more time researching and reporting backgrounds of the candidates, but there still are not historical pieces on the issues laying out how we got to where we are now and what the best thinking is on how to move forward.

It’s no better online where most of the writing is opinion and reaction to what little real news there is (as is this story from Crabby), and where there is a lot more unsubstantiated rumor and partisan lies.

Crabby wants the media to stop the candidates cold and keep them on topic until they explain themselves when they make absurd statements, stretch the truth and change the subject when they don’t want to answer the question. When a candidate complains that the media is being unfair, as Senator McCain has about the digging into Sarah Palin’s governing background, she wants them to pin down the candidate. “Explain to our viewers, sir, how it is unfair for voters to know the governor’s record, especially when it differs from what you and she have said?”

All politicians are adept at repeating their talking points when they don’t want to answer a reporter’s question. Crabby’s question – and it should be the media’s too – in that case is: “Sir (or Ma’am), what is it you are trying to hide from voters by not answering this question?”

It doesn’t matter if a candidate still avoids answering; the point has then been made. But the media mostly let candidates skate however meaningless, inconsistent or fatuous their statements are.

Crabby wonders, too, how stupid the voting public is. To bring this back down from 30,000 feet to one specific instance: when the McCain campaign releases an ad, the nastiest one among many, saying that Senator Obama supports teaching comprehensive sex education to kindergartners, is anyone idiot enough to believe it? Would that ad really change someone’s vote to McCain? The larger questions are, what kind of people even think up such an ad? What is the underlying character of a person who approves it? And if they lie about something as easy to dispute as this, what will they do when they are in power?

Crabby Old Lady despairs. In the seven weeks left until election day, is there any chance at all of avoiding more lipstick and lies, of finding intelligent life within the presidential campaign?

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, James J Henry Jr recalls how his Youthful Patriotism was instilled.]

Comments

You are right on target!

The country has foundered and is wallowing in the mire while the candidates squabble on the side of the pit, whining: "Yes, you did!" "No, I didn't!" "Yes, you did!" "No, I didn't!"

When are we going to get the straight talk McCain crows about? When is Obama going to stop being defensive and start campaigning?

I'm afraid that if this keeps up, all the American public will have to decide with on election day is who has shouted the loudest and who has played the dirtiest tricks.

The scary thing is that it looks more and more as though 'campaigning' depends on who can bribe, blackmail or lie their way into the news.
I have to admit that from what I can glean from the media, McCain comes over as a quick tempered man who should never be allowed to take control and Sarah Palin is reputed to be a very bad manager and a hypocrite - not to mention spiteful towards anyone who dares to oppose her. What a team from Hell!!!!!
Barack Obama hasn't had much coverage over here since his European Tour but if even America hasn't been given much idea of his policies and views then it's not surprising if we know even less about him. All I can say is that I hope he wins but it's just because the prospect of MCain/Palin is so appalling. Then there is the real possibility of vote rigging. Surely Bush couldn't have got in last time without it so there's a chance they'll do the same for McCain isn't there? Heaven forbid!!!

Sablonneuse, you overestimate the intelligence of the American public. It's entirely possible that Bush was duly elected. Democracy, it turns out, *is* mob rule.

Or maybe I'm just having a bad day.

Ronni is dead on about media coverage of the campaign.

The media coverage of this election has been disgusting. Some times I think they're so busy fight among themselves (MSNBC) as to who is going to be the next Tim Russert that they will say or do anything. And that's just one station. Many of us have to depend on newspaper and TV coverage to know what is happening and if you can't trust the politicians and you can't trust the media then where do we go? I try to do my own research, but again, where do you find the information you need?

Don't despair folks -- I think the tide is turning. Two aspects of this:

The media is out to sell us a commodity -- for want of a better word, empty sizzle. It's eye grabbing for them. The Republican Convention provided them with a nice new shiny bauble to hype and they ran along happily. But they were denied access and those "little First Amendment machines" have driven the massive lies about Palin's Alaska tenure into the mainstream narrative. That's a start. At her height, she polled +17 favorable/unfavorable. She's now down to about +2 favorable/unfavorable and sinking. She's over.

Meanwhile, a great many pundits have discovered that the nice old "honorable" John McCain they knew has turned into a liar. They react. Here's a specimen from Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. Since the media is a herd phenomenon, this stuff spreads.

Finally, the Wall Street mess brings the importance of the election home to the permanent political class in a way that a couple of lost wars and a lot of hurting poor people never could. The bloviators don't want a bumbling McCain and his right wing toy woman messing with their wealth. He's gonna get less breaks.

What's hard is not to lose our equilibrium in this process, because this circus is OUR future and the future of our descendants, if any. I heartily recommend volunteering to help a campaign at some level. DOING SOMETHING is an antidote to depression and fear. Those feelings are appropriate, but I prefer bodily tired and knowing I've tried to feeling completely helpless.

I'm not sure that it even matters what's said or not said by or about the candidates. When I have asked co-workers WHY they support McCain/Palin - which a fairly large number of them do; this is an old guard republican organization - there is absolutely no rhyme or reason, no logic, and no understanding of, or desire to understand, the issues. When I commented on Cindy McCain's $300,000 outfit worn on the last night of the Republican convention - and suggested that it might reflect some lack of understanding of the plight of *commoners* in this country, the response was, "Well, she can AFFORD it, so why shouldn't she?" Ooooookay. I will vote for Obama, because he's the only viable candidate out there, but I DO want to register my disapproval of the campaign system in general. All the money they raise trying to get elected could serve WAY better purposes, after all. And how is it that McCain, who is richer, even, than God is purported to be, is taking public campaign funds while Obama is not? But regardless of where it's coming from, the money they're spending is (and always has been) obscene. I, too, would like to see a comparison chart of the two presidential candidates - and vice presidential candidates - outlining where each stands on the various issues that matter to us as a nation. Just a simple comparison chart. Publish it, and we can look at it and vote based on the issues rather than party lines and all the other bullkaka that we're hearing. Right on, Ronni!!!!

You said it all and well. The only thing I can add is something that I have been wondering about-- who are Americans? Maybe this media and these candidates are more about who we are than what they are.

The information on what Obama stands for, his positions, his speeches, all is out there on YouTube and in transcripts. But that requires going to a computer either in a library or at home and then being willing to do a search. Too many people prefer to say I have no idea where they stand and expect to be spoon fed the information. Well people are being spoon fed something but it isn't information.

When I read someone, who supported Hillary and now says they will support Palin, it's all about them, not about issues, not about the things Hillary has spent her life fighting to see happen. It's about a woman who is mad at a party who didn't play her way and now she'll show them. Another Supreme Court judge later and we'll see who gets shown what.

And taxes. Those who support McCain, almost always mention taxes. Don't want their taxes going up. They supported the war, the president who gave us this mess and all they worry about is they might, instead of their great great grandchildren, have to pay for this mess.

I woke up thinking about it and could rant for hours and sometimes do. It is SO frustrating. I do blame the media but I also blame people who don't bother to be informed and vote on emotions.

One program to which we were listening talked about how this voting on emotions began with Reagan and how well he used emotions to get votes while people ignored interests that mattered to the country. They would say something and people would believe it. We see it today. Emperor's New Clothes. It works and it keeps being worked. To say the least grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

It's the "doing the same old thing and expecting different results" syndrome.

Just this week, my husband still has a job and we still have insurance. Just this week, we can make plans for the future.

I wished that the solace King Solomon got from his ring (remember, "This too shall pass") would work for my own distress, but try as I might, the knowledge that life goes on, things change, etcetera, etcetera, doesn't seem to be helping.

The crisis in America (not to mention the world) is deep enough, scary enough, to give me real worries. In the past, when things got a little hairy, I could shrug and brush it off to "politics as usual" and things will return to normal soon.

This go 'round, the bad judgement and greed of those raunchy bedfellows, Politics and Big Bidness, is more than just a passing irritant - the repercussions from recent and coming catastrophes will last far into the nights of the future.

I feel utterly hopeless in terms of exacting any kind of solution, and the candidates I have to choose from give me even less confidence.

America desperately needs a wise, strong individual to step up and give some structure and guidance for a way out of this mess. Someone who can instill a "can do" attitude without sugar-coating what it will take to climb out of the hole we are in now.

America has always depended on outstanding leaders to ignite the passion and determination of her citizens, who together with a common goal, can truly exact miracles.

The podium stands empty for now and there is no Miracle Worker on the stage that I can see.

I just read Crabby Old Lady's post today with a sense of deja vu (4 and 8 years ago), and also an impotent despair, seeing as how I am Canadian and really have no say in this matter at all, but who becomes the next president of the USA does indeed affect my country and my life.

Shortly after, I read another post on another blog that really nailed it I thought, so I am recommending a peak at today's post (Sept 14) on Little Blog In The Big Woods, by GreenPa (littlebloginthebigwoods.blogspot.com). He describes a little skit he saw on an old Dick Van Dyke show many years ago, about a match between a boxer and a chess player. I'll leave the rest to your imagination, or go read it yourself.

Anne...

You are so right that what happens here in the U.S. affects Canada and much of the rest of the world in a large way.

When one country's actions or inactions have such an outsized impact on other countries, the impotence of having no say must be frightening to people in those places.

It can't be any solace, but many of us here feel just as much impotence to affect our government. We get a vote, but there are so many voters who have little understanding of the issues or cast their ballots as though it mattered no more than who wins American Idol.

There IS a difference this time, a big difference, but Crabby Old Lady has no confidence that a large portion of the American public even knows that, let alone can or will make a rational decision at the ballot box.

Anne—We have extended family in Canada and I know they are watching us closely, and with good reason.
I was an ardent Hillary supporter for what she said she stood for. I am now an ardent Obama supporter for what he stands for. I cannot imagine anyone who was for Hillary not now being for Obama. But, of course, I could never have imagined these past eight years. I am terrified some days more than others. There’s just too much to lose not to be on edge.

One of the ways I'm managing the ongoing fiacso of the campaign is by watching Jon Stewart's daily show. It's seems to be a better way to end the day. Dee

I've been listening to some sound bites from "middle aged women" in Charlotte, N.C. that were running on Public Radio a couple of hours ago and I am not going to try to quote any of these people verbatim but in essence, they've decided to vote the McCain/Palin ticket because Palin's a woman and she knows what it's like to be a woman. That's her credentials.
What more do you need?

I remember when people were very concerned about the fact that the "media" (i.e. TV) was broadcasting material aimed at a twelve year old audience. Now we know that they were programming way over their audience's heads.
The majority of America's "adults" are under-educated, unmotivated and blissfully happy in their ignorance

Ronni, it's so refreshing to read your column. I think it's hard to underestimate the "voter I.Q." of the American public. Most people dislike the way our country is headed, yet so many of them will automatically vote for the party that created all these messes and would dig us in deeper.
An otherwise intelligent woman told me that she couldn't vote for Obama "because of abortion." One of our friends says he despairs because he knows so many knee-jerk single-issue voters. They refuse to look at anything else.
The saddest part is that if most people in my state vote Republican, as I'm afraid they will, my vote for Obama won't count one whit. So much for our Electoral College system.

Like you, Ronni, I am former member of the press establishment. I left when we started interviewing each other. What a bunch of morons. My apartment is worth half what I paid for it, my pension fund is at risk in AIG and also worth about half of its one-time high, Wall Street mobsters (yes, I use the word as I mean to) are driving around in Ferraris purchased off the backs of us working stiffs. Do I sound angry? Well oh gosh, pardonez moi.

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