As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Come With Me, And You'll See, A World Of Pure Imagination

So John McCain has invited Barack Obama on the road with him for a summer stock production of "So You Wanna Be The President."

I suggest we agree to participate in at least ten town halls once a week with the first on June 11 or 12 in New York City at Federal Hall until the week before the Democratic Convention begins at locations to be determined by our campaigns. Federal Hall is particularly fitting as it was the place where George Washington took the oath of office as our first President and the birthplace of American government hosting the first Congress, Supreme Court and Executive Branch offices. These town halls should be attended by an audience of between two to four hundred selected by an independent polling agency, could be sixty to ninety minutes in length, have very limited moderation by an independent local moderator, take blind questions from the audience selected by the moderator and allow for equally proportional time for answers by each of us.

First of all, McCain's schedule is booked for the day he offered, June 12, so this offer seems more than a little disingenuous. Second, McCain has been trying to get on the teevee for the last three months as his primary race ended and the Democratic race dragged on. There's not much of a reason to give him such a platform to present his viewpoints, and especially in the format he offered, which is essentially a town hall-style debate. Obama has countered by saying that they should be structured more like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, only I'm not seeing the attention span on the part of the media to bring us something that would last four to six hours.

But it does bring up a point that Paul Krugman hits today. We've seen a five-month campaign where every soundbite, every associate, every utterance was dissected and vivisected and analyzed to death, at the expense of the very real issues facing the country. Now, a general election comes with two candidates who like to call themselves reformers, and there are enormous differences on policy, and the media has a choice to make. Tim Russert was on last night saying "finally we get a real campaign to cover about big issues," but I can't imagine anyone believes he's serious.

But now the general election begins, and there are stark differences on issues between the candidates. Will those issues be the focus of the coverage? Or will it be more of the same?

It won’t surprise you to hear that I’m not optimistic. After all, 8 years ago the press managed to portray an election in which there were large policy differences as one in which nothing much was at stake. Here’s a sample from the time:

"George W. Bush and Al Gore have been campaigning for months, spotlighting the differences they offer voters. But when it comes to the policies they believe will keep Americans employed and the nation prosperous, they could just as well be running on the same ticket.

'This election reminds me of the elections in the late 19th century when nobody remembers who those candidates were and who those presidents were, when the parties looked more alike than they were different,' says presidential historian Robert Dallek, author of Hail to the Chief: The Making and Unmaking of American Presidents. 'Of course, it’s vastly different given the kind of global involvements the United States has and the enormous power of this country. But for all that, there are echoes of that time.'"

That really wasn't even close to true, even at the time when Bush was offering his "compassionate conservative" shtick.

But that's as far as the media wanted to go with it, because they aren't all that concerned with policy or particularly knowledgeable about it. Their bias reflects their upper-middle class status, and that's about as far as they go. So having them react to a Lincoln-Douglas type of debate between the candidates would be the ultimate in culture shock. I'm as pessimistic as Krugman.

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