Thursday, August 21, 2008

Why, oh why, must political campaigns be terminally stupid?

So, a reporter asked John McCain how many residences he and his wife own, and he (forthrightly) answered with something like, "I'll have to check with my staff and get back to you on that." It's fairly widely known that the McCains, largely because of her fortune, are really, really rich. Richer than the Obamas, who also are a good deal better off than any family that has to sweat out mortgage or rent payments.

OK, here's this public statement by McCain that's low hanging fruit. So low that even the media can be trusted to grasp it and do something, without any help. So why must the Obama campaign not just leave it there? No, they have to grab it and run, prompting McCain's people to chase after them with allegations that Obama somehow got his house through evil Chicago political machinations. So does the discourse of the campaign sink a little further toward cetacean fecal level.

Stick to real issues, not name-calling. It's not fatal. We're not the brain-dead lugs you think we are. Trust me, we'll listen, and judge accordingly.

Update: In a letter to the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle printed in today's paper, Jim Tulip, of Pacific Grove, California, struck a similar note concerning the role of media. Responding to an article with the headline "Revamp message, experts advise slumping Obama", Mr. Tulip observed that

the "experts" report that Sen. Barack Obama's thoughtful answers to complex questions are somehow inferior to Sen. John McCain's shoot-from-the-hip inanities.
He then argues:
If the role of the Fourth Estate is to bear witness to the truth, then shouldn't it be judging the candidates' statements by a higher standard rather than in a way that assumes those statements might be received by the lowest of the so-called low information voters. By accepting the idea that the democracy is in the hands of the uninformed, the media are creating a dangerous self-fulfilling prophecy. If we assume things need to be dumbed down, then they will be.