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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Cleaning Up After Pundits

After such a huge mess as the Democratic primaries, some clean up is in order. Political campaigns generally leave two kinds of detritus behind -- confetti and bullshit. I'll leave the former for those who are paid to sweep it up (and hopefully recycle it), while I deal with the latter.

Turns out the latter is recyclable too. The fertilizer spread in past campaigns feeds the current crop. We'll start out with a quote I found last night, from an Associated Press roundup of world reactions to Obama winning the nomination.

In Mexico City, hairdresser Susan Mendoza's eyes lit up when she learned Obama had clinched the nomination.

"Bush was for the elite. Obama is of the people," she said.

Of course, here in the US it's bass-ackward. Obama, son of a single working mother, is the "elite" -- because he's a latte-sipping Democrat -- and Bush, scion of a millionaire Washington insider, is the "regular fella" -- I guess because he speaks like a moron. This is the rule in the US because talking heads on that TV machine tell you so. It's repeated over and over, until the absolutely obvious isn't so obvious anymore -- night becomes day, hot becomes cold, elites become people from humble roots, and those from humble roots become the elite.

I give you this to issue one warning -- that TV machine is a bullshit dispenser. It's for entertainment purposes only. If you want information about the elections and what issues are at stake, get it in print. Television news -- especially 24/7 cable networks -- is crap. You watch that stuff and I can practically guarantee you won't become more informed -- in fact, it's a good bet you'll become dumber. When a Mexican hairdresser has a better grasp of the facts than a pundit on CNN or FOX, that ought to tell you something about CNN and FOX. If you want to know it, read it.

I've got a few "go-to" places online. In fact, my list of RSS feeds is full of them. On Iraq, I head to Leila Fadel and Juan Cole, among others. Among my election go-tos is Al Giordano and his blog, The Field. Here, Al explains why Clinton's going to concede (the event he refers to has since been rescheduled to Saturday):

Why [will Hillary concede and endorse on] Friday? That was the deadline day that DNC Chairman Howard Dean, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had signaled to the remaining 119 undeclared superdelegates that they should get off the fence and announce their preference. With more than 100 of them breaking for Obama over the past 36 hours, including four more members of the "Cardoza 40" that had originally endorsed Clinton but agreed to switch to Obama (the latest: political bigfeet Senator Barbara Boxer and US Rep. Maxine Waters), the only way for Clinton to stem the bleeding was to leak news of her Friday exit today. Now, most of them will courteously remain quiet until Clinton makes her exit official.

You're not going to hear that sort of analysis on TV, because those talking heads think you're an idiot. While ESPN assumes that any sports fan in a Laz-E-Boy will understand the most obscure and arcane rules about football or baseball, network news thinks you're too dumb to understand this. In all the explanations of why Hillary's shutting down, the odds are real good that this is the first time you've ever seen the phrase "Cardoza 40." And, while TV pundits tell you that Clinton has leverage and wants to strong arm her way into a VP slot, Giordano tells us otherwise. "After all, it is hard to be taken seriously saying you speak for 'eighteen million Americans' if many of those you claim to speak for begin to, uh, disassociate themselves from your cause," he writes. "Whatever bargaining power Clinton thought she had (none, said her former surrogate, the candor-junky Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell) was about to be visibly and painfully diminished for the whole nation to see."

In other words, Clinton doesn't have any leverage. She's done because she's out of ammo. Networks don't go for the truest explanation, they go for the easiest to explain. Sound-bite culture breeds a bastardized sound-bite version of the truth.

This is what gets us the entirely made-up view of John McCain as a "straight-talker." The truth is that Baghdad Johnny's all over the damned map. What he believes depends entirely on who he's talking to at the time. Support abortion rights? He's all for Roe v. Wade. Oppose abortion? Why, Roe v. Wade should be overturned.

In fact, McCain makes a habit of revisionist personal history; changing which side of a debate he was on, like a Soviet editor making sure Lenin was always on the winning side in text books. At the conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee Monday, McCain had this to say:

We should privatize the sanctions against Iran by launching a worldwide divestment campaign. As more people, businesses, pension funds, and financial institutions across the world divest from companies doing business with Iran, the radical elite who run that country will become even more unpopular than they are already. Years ago, the moral clarity and conviction of civilized nations came together in a divestment campaign against South Africa, helping to rid that nation of the evil of apartheid. In our day, we must use that same power and moral conviction against the regime in Iran, and help to safeguard the people of Israel and the peace of the world.

Yeah, about that "moral clarity and conviction of civilized nations" -- McCain was against that. Think Progress (another go-to) tells us, "Despite voting to override President Reagan’s veto of a bill imposing economic sanctions against South Africa in 1986, McCain voted against sanctions on at least six other occasions," then lists those votes. When was the last time some talking head called BS on McCain when he did something like this? He does this sort of thing all the time.

Yet, we go to another Think Progress piece and we see that not only do the pundits give McCain a pass on a regular basis, they put that fact into their punditry. What we're shown there is Chris Matthews and Tim Russert discuss McCain's seriously awful New Orleans speech. In that speech, McCain tried to poach pissed off Clinton voters by saying, "Pundits and party elders have declared that Senator Obama will be my opponent." Voters, I guess, are beside the point. Maybe he was using the GOP as his model.

Anyway, Matthews found this statement perplexing. "What is his beef with the media? I’d like to know that,” said Matthews, “I mean, after ten years of covering this guy, I have yet to see anybody lay a glove on him."

Russert chuckles, "Well, he used to call it his base," in response.

Here are two so-called "political analysts" joking that McCain isn't appreciative enough of all the slack they cut him -- right there, out in the open, on television and on purpose.

Another thing that the television media have been making a big deal about is that there are Hillary backers who are threatening to vote McCain. Clearly, Barack Obama is doomed. Yet an opposite and, perhaps, more devastating story is being underreported and left uncommented on.

McClatchy Newspapers:

Beverly Fanning is among the campaign donors who'll be joining President Bush at a gala at Washington's Ford's Theater Sunday night, but she says that won't dissuade her from her current passion: volunteering for Barack Obama's presidential campaign...

"There is a large block of Republicans, particularly economic conservatives, who just feel that the Republican Party in Washington completely let them down" by failing to control spending and address other problems, Corrado said. "The Republicans have really given these donors no reason to give."

While much has been made of a "rift" in the Democratic Party, this bleeding gash in the GOP is being largely ignored. Nolan Chart LLC tells us that the final primaries for the GOP showed trouble. "In South Dakota, Ron Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney were all on the ballot with Senator McCain and 'Uncommitted.' Senator McCain won 70% of the votes. The totals were McCain 42807(70%), Paul 10117 (17%) Huckabee 4334(7%) Romney 1980(3%) and Uncommitted 1791(3%)." 30% of Republicans voted against McCain. In Georgia, the Libertarian candidacy of former GOP Rep. Bob Barr may cost McCain a state that Republicans traditionally rely on. Throw diehard Ron Paul backers into the mix and the GOP is barely a party. No wonder McCain's trying to snatch up angry Clintonistas -- they may be his only hope.

Of course, as I pointed out, none of that's getting broadcast. These are facts you find only in print. Turns out that the "two kinds of detritus" I referred to earlier come from two sources. The confetti comes from the candidates and the bullshit comes from the candidates and the pundits.

If we cut the punditry out of the equation, we'll probably have less than half the crap to clean up.


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1 comment:

Emily said...

"Of course, here in the US it's bass-ackward. Obama, son of a single working mother, is the "elite" -- because he's a latte-sipping Democrat -- and Bush, scion of a millionaire Washington insider, is the "regular fella" -- I guess because he speaks like a moron."

This. This is what has been baffling and pissing me off since I was old enough to pay attention.