In David Brooks’s column in the New York Times today, he rattles off 10 reasons why this presidential campaign is so incredibly boring. He rightfully scolds Mitt Romney for running “the closest thing to a policy-free race as any candidate in my lifetime” and criticizes President Obama’s proposals as “small and medium-size retreads.” I disagree with Brooks’s description of the President’s proposals – does he really consider the American Jobs Act small?
But I also think the reason he considers these ideas retreads is that Obama has been in office for four years. He hasn’t been keeping a secret agenda from the American public just to unveil it on the campaign trail. In addition, Democrats have been pushing many of the ideas he supports for years. Policy experts and the media have thoroughly dissected every policy proposal. There isn’t anything new to report.
And even if Romney did reveal which policies he supports, the media would only be able to do so much with it. In all likelihood, those policies would be conservative retreads as well.
But Brooks makes another point that I think is more important:
[T]echnology is making campaigns dumber. BlackBerrys and iPhones mean that campaigns can respond to their opponents minute by minute and hour by hour. The campaigns get lost in tit-for-tat minutiae that nobody outside the bubble cares about. Meanwhile, use of the Internet means that Web videos overshadow candidate speeches and appearances. Video replaces verbal. Tactics eclipse vision.
This is 100 percent true and it’s sad, as I’m not sure there’s much that will change either. If the media collectively decided to ignore the gaffes that attract viewers, then maybe we could break out of this technology-driven monotony. But the majority of viewers are strongly split between Obama and Romney. They want to see passionate speeches from the candidate they support and gaffes from the candidate they don’t. They don’t want to see wonky, policy speeches. So if a media station decides to focus on policy over gaffes (ala The Newsroom), it’s just going to see viewership decrease (ala The Newsroom). Welcome to presidential campaigns in the 21st century!
Kevin Drum wrote a post yesterday on the Supreme Court that I don’t totally agree with. He takes offense to Justice Antonin Scalia’s “arrogance” when he says”:
I’m against it because I do not believe [...] that the purpose of televising our hearings would be to educate the American people. That’s not what it would end up doing. If I really thought it would educate the American people, I would be all for it. If the American people sat down and watched our proceedings gavel to gavel [...] they would be educated. But they wouldn’t see all of that.
Your outfit would carry it all, to be sure, but what most of the American people would see would be 30-second, 15-second takeouts from our argument, and those takeouts would not be characteristic of what we do. They would be uncharacteristic.
But now what we see is an article in a newspaper that’s out of context with what you say is — (Bolding Drum’s)
That’s fine, but people read that and they say, well it’s an article in the newspaper, and the guy may be lying, or he may be misinformed. But somehow when you see it live, an excerpt pulled out of an entire — when you see it live, it has a much greater impact. No, I am sure it will miseducate the American people, not educate.
Drum has issue with Scalia’s disregard for the American public’s capacity to learn from the Supreme Court being televised. He admits that of course the media will take the most controversial snippets and the American public will just see small parts of it, but concludes:
So what? Nobody thinks that’s a good reason to limit access to any other branch of government. Politics is a messy game. It’s often unfair. That’s life, and in a democracy the public should get to see it unfold regardless of whether you think they’re smart enough to appreciate it.
I’m not sure I agree with this. The Supreme Court has to be as far above politics as we can make it. Over the past few decades, it has become more and more partisan, which is not good for the American people. We need justices who are free to judge cases purely on the law, not play politics. At the Supreme Court level, justices cannot escape politics but putting them on TV would just exacerbate the problem.
It seems the same as the Federal Reserve Board meetings. These institutions make decisions that are extremely important to the country and we must protect them from politics in any way we can. One of those ways is keeping them off TV.
I’m generally in agreement with Paul Krugman on most things, but every once in a while, he tosses something out there that I take a slight issue with. From a blog post today on the “you didn’t build that” controversy:
First, sure enough, the self-reliant businessman featured in Romney’s ads was the beneficiary of large government loans and contracts. This doesn’t make him a bad guy; pretending that he did it all himself does.
Pretending that he did it all himself makes him a bad guy? Plenty of Americans don’t realize the role government has in their lives. It makes him a “bad guy” for not remembering a loan from 1999 or a few Navy contracts in 2008? More likely, the businessman did realize that he dealt with the government, but he sees it as much him helping the government as the government helping him out. An even trade. He may even understand that the government helped him a bit, but thinks Obama isn’t giving him and his family enough credit so he goes to the extreme and denies any government help.
None of that makes him a “bad guy” though.
But that’s just a minor, disrespectful phrase by Krugman. My larger issue with him and other liberal bloggers has been the fact that they’ve jumped on Romney for his most recent, dishonest ad, but laid off on Obama’s “outsourcer” attack.
I agree that Romney’s ad is slightly worse. His campaign took two chunks out of Obama’s speech, cut out the middle and edited it so it seemed like there was nothing in between. That’s pretty dishonest, but Obama also spent a while calling Romney an “outsourcer” from his Bain days, trying to insinuate that Romney would rather create jobs abroad than in the US. That’s pretty deceitful as well.
Now there was a lot of debate over Romney’s involvement with Bain after he left to run the Olympics and how much responsibility he has for Bain’s actions then. But I’m not sure that matters that much. Obama’s ads made it sound like Romney’s actions deliberately harmed the country by sending jobs abroad. While not blatantly dishonest, the ad is still very misleading. The companies under Bain that shipped jobs overseas did so because it was the right move for those companies. Even if Romney was in charge, it was still the right move. Why would anyone expect him to keep those jobs in the country if the companies could produce greater profits by sending them overseas?
Krugman and other liberal bloggers (and all journalists) have every right to jump on Romney for his less-than-truthful ads, but they also have a duty to jump on Obama as well. The criticism for dishonest ads should go both ways.