Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Skipping Record of Politics

I suppose I am dating myself by referring to skipping records.

Yes, I mean the vinyl discs that used to be sold in music stores, and you'd take them home and play them on record players. Nothing annoyed an LP record audiophile more than a skip on a record. There was little chance of repairing a skip, so you'd have to go buy a new album.

Having said all that, I'm going to be the skipping record today and chime in on something countless people say each and every political season.

I am sick of the nasty, frivolous attacks waged by both sides of the political spectrum, whether it's in a debate or via commercials.

Why can't candidates for office simply lay out their positions on issues, and then fairly and honestly critique their opponents' views, and say where they believe their opponents are mistaken. Then articulate why their views are superior to those of their opponents and why they would work more effectively. Skip the gloom and doom ads with the mushroom clouds, narrators putting on their most histrionic or damning tones of voice, not to mention the lies, distortions, damned lies and lying figures. Skip the cheap shot personal attacks in debates or in media appearances. They only show the lowness of the person delivering them.

Case in point—the infamous snotty remark by the late Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D-TX) aimed at Vice President Dan Quayle in the vice presidential debate in 1988. Quayle had been taking flack over being too young for the presidency, and Quayle was attempting to point out the parity of ages between he and John Kennedy when Kennedy became president. What did Bentsen say? "I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." The audience howled, and a stunned Quayle could only say, "Senator, that was completely uncalled for."

It was a classless, gutless attack. If I had been Quayle, I would have retorted, "You're correct, Lloyd. I am no Jack Kennedy after all. My wife knows where I am at night." That would have brought the house down and rubbed Bentsen's nose in his own effluent.

But, that's remembering some of my own outrage in wishing this kind of bovine fecal matter would stop. It's childish. It's cheap. It's unintellectual. It's devoid of principle. It is a disservice to the country. It feeds a media only intent on the show and not to do what's best for the country.

I know some will argue that nastiness has been part of politics as long as there have been politics. Maybe. And I have to confess—in my younger years I'd cheer at a sharp put-down along with the rest and gloat when a campaign ad would put down a candidate that I opposed.

But I hope I have matured somewhat sense then. Now I hate it. I hate it with a passion. And I'm beginning to wish the American body politic would begin punishing candidates who engage in it, and DEMANDING that they deal with issues in a fair, dialogue-friendly manner. And then give the American electorate credit for having enough intelligence and discernment to figure out who makes the most sense and who is worthy of office. As an aside, we'll have to have a few media takeovers first, or at least to make the media pay by losing advertisers for not being fair and objective.

We can start with complete reform of debates. These events today are not debates. They are glorified press conferences, and the media controls what gets asked and what questions get their 60 seconds of soundbite. Back to the Lincoln-Douglas format, and the media can go jump in the lake. Plus, let's drag the public to watch by scruffs of their necks, and make them pay attention and use their brains.

I can dream, can't I?

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