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A number of you have told me that you don’t look forward to reading the column on your computer screen. That’s not necessary if you have a printer. Print out the column and take it with you to the breakfast table or wherever else you choose to read printed material. (You can also call up past columns in case you missed them.)
And, if you haven’t already done so, let us know your e-mail address so that we can send you a weekly reminder when a new column is available.
September 17, 2008
Why am I offering readers two columns this week (Wednesday and Thursday) instead of the usual Thursday-only column? Because there is simply so much political news which invites comment and I didn’t want to pass the opportunity for comment while some of that interesting news is fresh or still relatively fresh. (You would have to write a column every day to keep up with the flow, particularly since John McCain chose such a newsworthy—and obvious liberal media target—as Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.)
But first, a brief diversion before commenting on the political scene: Attractive, hard-bound copies of “Life With Marian”—a book which a good many readers have said they would be interested in owning—have arrived from the printers and are already available for purchase (for $22.50) at The Bookworm in Countryside Village. The 235 pages consist largely of anecdotes of the kind which so many readers said they enjoyed when they appeared in my columns in The Omaha World-Herald over a 15-year period ending last October.
Incidentally, I’ll be at The Bookworm Thursday, September 25 starting at 6:00 p.m. for a book signing. One of those lovable cocker spaniels, so often mentioned in my column, will also be on hand. (We are experimenting to see if a paw print “signature” will be part of the proceedings.)Editor Jim Fogarty and I are working out the details of distribution—through the mail, for example—beyond The Bookworm. If you’re interested, stay tuned.
* * *
When I picked up a copy of last Sunday’s New York Times, there wasn’t any question in my mind that there would be a front-page story targeted at either Republican presidential candidate Senator John McCain or his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
My guess was that the article would probably be aimed at Palin, whose popularity has The Times and the rest of the liberal establishment (certainly including nearly all major television networks) so upset at the prospect that McCain’s popular choice of Governor Palin might tip the November balance against the choice of American liberals, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama.
My hunch was correct. There was a front-page Times story aimed at a Republican target and the target was Palin. The four-column headline read: “As Governor and Mayor, Palin Hired Friends and Hit Critics.”
(I don’t know how many reporters The Times dispatched to Alaska with Palin as their target, but the story which started on the front page and ran over to a full inside page was written by three Times staff members.)
Predictably, the 84-paragraph story was neutral in reporting a variety of facts and included shreds of favorable comments (one sentence in the 10th paragraph on page 1, and then four paragraphs in the second half of the 84-paragraph story). But more typical were comments like this: “Ms. Palin has pursued vendettas, fired officials who have crossed her and blurred the line between government and personal grievance.”
The Times went so far as to quote one of those innumerable “bloggers” whose comments, either liberal or conservative, are regarded by a good many good journalists as not worthy of circulation through supposed legitimate news channels.
There was more, predictably, of McCain/Palin targeting in the Sunday Times, but it was in its proper place, on the “Sunday Opinion” pages.
Maureen Dowd, who ranks along with Frank Rich as the nastiest in The Times stable of liberal columnists, wrote a column on Palin after a week spent in Alaska. Typical of Dowd’s column was her description of Palin as “our new Napoleon in bunny boots.”
There was more of the same in the Frank Rich column, which included a suggestion that Obama redirect his campaign with “roll-up-your-sleeves Bobby Kennedy passion for the economic crises that are at the heart of the fear that Palin is trying to exploit.” Even Tom Friedman, whom I have in the past considered the most balanced of The Times columnists, lowered his level of criticism of Palin by suggesting that she would have no more clue as to how to “reform” Washington “than the first 100 names in the D.C. phonebook.”
Perhaps I have dwelt overlong on the liberal tilt in a single issue of The New York Times, but it seems to me that what The Times does so consistently—and is now accelerating in the face of Governor Palin’s popularity—is representative of the approach which the American liberal establishment—including a good many journalists—is taking in its efforts to (1) turn the 2008 campaign into a vote on the popularity of George W. Bush and (2) turn full-bore critical attention on Governor Palin in an effort to blunt the popularity and new vitality which she has brought to the McCain campaign.
* * *
Incidentally but importantly, it can certainly not be fairly argued that the McCain campaign is without blame in lowering the level of campaign rhetoric.
There was no justification for two recent McCain television ads, one of which accused Obama of supporting “comprehensive sex ed” for kindergarteners. The truth was that Obama had endorsed comprehensive sex education for youngsters, including teaching them to be alert for inappropriate advances from adults.
The level to which campaign advertising has sunk is certainly not totally the responsibility of McCain and his advisors. For example, an Obama advertisement accused both McCain and Palin of “lying” about their records, overly strong language for expressing disagreement with what McCain and Palin assert about their records.
Unfortunately, down through American political history, it seems that almost every presidential campaign at least occasionally detours—and sometimes remains—on the rhetorical low road.
One advantage that Democratic candidates customarily have is that they can stay on the rhetorical high road and let journalists in the liberal establishment do what might be called the rhetorical dirty work for them. For example, consider some the language in a recent column by Bob Herbert of The New York Times, linking McCain with what Herbert described as “a slavish devotion of the GOP to the rich and powerful among us and of the party’s contempt for the interests of working families and the poor.”
It’s easier for Obama to run less controversial “I’m Barach Obama and I endorse this ad” campaign advertising and accuse the McCain/Palin campaign of “lies” when you have columnists like Maureen Dowd and Bob Herbert of The New York Times and their ilk traveling the rhetorical low road in support of your candidacy.
* * *
With history-making candidates on each party’s ticket—Barack Obama the first black (half black/half white) presidential nominee and Sarah Palin, the Republican Party’s first female vice presidential nominee—and deadly serious national issues to be addressed, the presidential campaign sometimes seems to be something like a game of “Trivial Pursuit.”
Increasingly since McCain’s surprising choice of Palin, to the level of foolishness on too many occasions. For example:
Apparently stung by the comparison of Palin’s actual experience as an executive in contrast to Obama’s lack thereof, Obama actually offered the argument that he has acquired significant executive experience by being in charge of his campaign for president. Apparently he really believes that running for president provides all the executive experience he needs to serve as president.
Also foolish was Senator McCain’s response to the charge that he really knew very little about Governor Palin when he chose her as his running mate. “I have watched her for many years,” McCain asserted. Considering that Palin has been governor of Alaska for less than two years and before that was the mayor of a small city, McCain’s claim of “many years” of watching Palin just sounds silly.
Additional foolishness: the assertion in an Obama campaign TV ad that McCain is so far behind the times that “he admits he still doesn’t know how to use a computer, can’t send an e-mail.” What does computer competency have to do with a candidate’s competency for office?
Still on the subject of silly comments: Nanette Everson, a former White House counsel, in an essay written for McClatchy-Tribune Information Services, described Palin as “an authentic American folk hero.”
* * *
CNN, which loves to call itself “the most trusted name in news,” ought to require some political history study by its stable of “most trusted” commentators, one of whom said that the selection of the first black candidate for president reminds him of 1960 when John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic presidential nominee. The fact is that the Democratic Party’s 1928 presidential nominee, New York Mayor Al Smith, was Catholic.
And a number of political commentators, both print and broadcast, might do well to re-read the text of the celebrated “I Have A Dream” speech by the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. on August 28, 1963.
Several commentators indicated that Barack Obama’s nomination for president was an indication that, to an historic and significant extent, Dr. King’s “dream” has come true.
But such comments overlook perhaps the most memorable part of King’s stirring speech—at least the part I best remember. King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
Can it reasonably be argued that Barack Obama’s political success to date is not based, to a considerable degree, on the color of his skin? Or that his fate on election day, win or lose, will not to a considerable extent have been based on the color of his skin?
* * *
Some concluding random thoughts that occurred as I waded through the mass of media coverage of the presidential campaign:
A tip of my columnist’s cap to Obama who, when discussing the abortion issue, said: “We may disagree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.” And praise, too, for his assertion, while on the subject of families being raised by the mother alone: “Fathers must take more responsibility.”
I hope that John McCain, when the subject is unwanted pregnancies, will ignore the far-right conservative language in the Republican platform. That document calls for emphasis on sexual abstinence and opposes providing youths with information about, or the availability of, contraceptives.
Some other advice for McCain: Avoid the repeated use of what “I” will do as president and ease up on further details or pictures of the well-known story of the remarkable courage which you displayed during five years as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. That story need not be told over and over.
My bottom line for today: Some of what’s being said is of substance, but there’s been entirely too many diversionary side shows. I agree with David Ignatius of The Washington Post who referred to some of these diversions, then concluded:
“But behind the one-liners, these four (Obama, McCain, Biden and Palin) must discuss the issues. America is in trouble, and we still don’t know how Obama or McCain would govern.”
To which I would add a heartfelt “Amen!”
Tomorrow: More political comment, including state and local issues like the proposal for issuing bonds to finance more four-lane highways in Nebraska.
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