Thursday, August 19, 2004

Trivial pursuit

Almost as noteworthy in Chris Matthews' performance was this little capper from the usually reliably establishment GOP mouthpiece, David Gergen:
More than whether Kerry gains or Bush gains is the fact that it's not good for the country. To have an argument about the past when we should talk about the future is trivializing what we face as a nation. How will we come up with a strategy to win this war on terrorism?

Where will the next president go over the next four years?

Indeed, that's the whole purpose of the Swift Boat Veterans brouhaha -- to trivialize the presidential campaign.

I tuned in today to the whole phalanx of radio talk-show hosts still hopping about on the Swift Boat affair. And after awhile, I just wanted to say to them:
OK, fellas, go ahead and have your fun. After 10 years of racing after every right-wing smear planted in the press, we've come not to expect any better.

Just let us know when you're done with the trivia, will you?

Because it's clear that for the chattering classes, that's all that matters in this election: Trivia.

The Swift Boat Veterans flap -- like the "Kerry affair with an intern" rumor -- is clearly just a smear about nothing. It's a meaningless he said/she said tempest, and it reveals nothing meaningful about the two men running for president this year (except, perhaps, the eagerness of one of them to stoop to condoning gutter-level smears because he has nothing else to offer).

Someday, you might start thinking instead about discussing issues that are meaningful to the nation's citizens in fundamental and substantive ways:

-- What is the right course for securing the nation against terrorism, while protecting the civil liberties that define us?

-- How are we going to effectively extricate ourselves from the ongoing mess we created in Iraq, and bring our soldiers home and out of harm's way?

-- What can we do about the 2 million or so jobs that have been lost in the past four years -- as well as the continuing malaise in job creation?

-- What can we do about the ballooning federal budget deficit, for which our children and grandchildren will be paying?

-- How can we develop an effective energy policy that confronts and begins to reverse our longtime dependence not merely on oil, but on the giant congolmerates and Middle Eastern suzerains who control it -- because gasoline prices are reaching outrageous levels, because the spectre of stagflation continues to hover, and most of all, because oil continues to entangle us in military adventures that cost us both treasure and lives?

-- What can we do about better preserving our environment, and especially confronting global warming, now that we know it's not just a theory, and we know that its effects may be truly dire and truly destructive?

Wait. I know. These subjects are BORING, right? They do nothing for ratings.

But all of these questions also happen to affect nearly every one of us, rich or poor, in concrete ways. Providing good information about them -- and what our public figures intend to do about them -- is what the media are supposed to do in a democratic society.

Then again, civic-mindedness is the last thing on these people's minds.

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