[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.]