I'm going to apologize in advance for the many episodes of capitalization and the ranting nature of this post (especially to the much esteemed Mr. Johnso, who has heard it all before), but seriously: ever since the debates, and even more after seeing that film about John Kerry, I have been seriously preoccupied with the election. I've spent hours reading election news and punditry of all kinds for the past week, and lately, I've actually stooped to watching TELEVISION NEWS, such was my hunger for details about what the hell is happening in "the horserace." Here's the thing that strikes me hardest about the debates, both the Kerry/Bush battle and the scrum last night between Cheney and Edwards: the Bush campaign thinks we're stupid, and so does television news.
Ever since last Friday, the Bush campaign has been harping on Kerry's "global test" comment, saying that Kerry would submit America's defense to a veto by foreign countries, which is explicitly the OPPOSITE of what Kerry actually said. Do they think we can't understand the words in English that Kerry actually spoke? Last night, John Edwards correctly stated that the coalition forces have sustained 90% of the casualties in the Iraq war. Cheney said he was wrong, and changed the basis of the numbers to include Iraqi casualties. Huh? Edwards said COALITION FORCES, and he was right on the numbers. It's ridiculous to include casualties sustained by the country we invaded when talking about a lack of COALITION in that action. On top of that, Dick Cheney looked straight into the camera and said he had never asserted a relationship between the attacks of 9/11 and Iraq. Pardon? He must really think we're retarded to sit at home and absorb that bald-faced lie without question when he is on VIDEO, over and over again, saying exactly that. Edwards very creditably took on the subject of specious medical malpractice lawsuits, and Cheney turned around and acted as if he had never even acknowledged the problem. Dick, we are WATCHING the debate. We can hear John Edwards speaking!
Meanwhile, television news is nothing but ridiculous punditry and spin, where they come on for hours after the debate and TELL US WHAT HAPPENED. Like we can't see and hear for ourselves. "Cheney took Edwards to the woodshed!" "Edwards looked cuter!" SHUT UP, BITCHES! The only useful purpose served by televised news broadcasts following the debates is to check the facts put up by the candidates. It does not help anyone to hear Kerry and Bush's campaign managers tell us their man won, as if we are incapable of thinking for ourselves. All that crap does is inure the viewers against actually making an attempt to process what they have just seen on their own terms. I don't need anvils dropped on my head, thanks.
Moreover, both Bush and Cheney huffed and puffed, scowled and looked affronted by every criticism leveled at the actions of their administration by Kerry and Edwards. Bush looked like he would rather have been anywhere but at that debate, and Cheney flattly ignored questions raised by Edwards on the topic of Halliburton and gave no substantive response to questions about the mis-representation of the facts leading into the invasion of Iraq. Instead of seeing these debates as an opportunity to clarify and explain themselves - something they OWE us as elected public servants who work for us - Bush sputtered petulantly, and Cheney talked down to Edwards as if he were an errant teenager. Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle actually used that rankled Dad act as evidence of Cheney's superiority in the debate, but Edwards asked questions that I, for one, want to hear answers to, and Cheney's refusal to address them is offensive to all of us as citizens who pay the bills for those policies. We're not electing a despot, we are electing a PUBLIC SERVANT, and we have a right to answers to those questions. If it's a specious question, I want more than exasperated head-shaking; I WANT TO KNOW WHY.
My dad, an ardently conservative Bush-supporter, is fond of telling me that "if you aren't liberal when you're young, you have no heart, and if you aren't conservative when you get older, you have no brain." I think it's his way of reconciling our divergent positions, or giving us both an excuse for being wrong without getting into the shouting match that would be sure to follow in the event that we actually talked politics; something my dad, Cheney-like, refuses to do with me. It sounds good, but like a lot of things that seem to come out of the mouths of folks on that side of the aisle, it's an aphorism that is meant to STOP further thinking. Similarly, this administration is truly asking us NOT to think. They think we should simply come along, docile and trusting, and shore up our leaders when they are faced with "evildoers" and their "axis of evil." They don't want to give us answers about the choices they've made, or submit to any kind of questioning, because they know what they're doing, and we can't possibly be expected to understand it. Instead of addressing legitimate questions, they give us ideology, black and white presentation of complex and difficult issues, and exasperated sighs when we press for answers. This letter home from a Wall Street Journal reporter (and all the news we hear everyday) underscores the fact that it is pretty goddamned important to ASK SOME QUESTIONS. Things are not going well, and no amount of mediation from our current leaders can change that.
Memo to the Bush/Cheney ticket: NOT ALL OF US ARE RETARDED.
On the other hand, I wish Kerry and Edwards would quit dumbing it down and take off the gloves. Why on earth do they keep defending on the charge of flip-flopping? An intelligent and thoughtful person MUST change their thinking when confronted with information. I think it's time to trot out a little Emerson and remind the president that "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds."
Also, I am so tired of hearing politicians play both ends against the middle on the subject of gay marriage. Marriage is not the government's business. If a church will marry a gay couple, then they are married. Period. There's an easy answer to that debate, and it's to let the government mind it's business and record civil unions, and leave the application of the word "marriage" to churches, where it belongs. Repeating that marriage is between a man and a woman is a bad strategy, and comes off as pandering to people who are terrified of fags. There's nothing those terrifying homos can do to erode the sanctity of marriage that straight people aren't creditably taking care of themselves. GET OVER IT!
PS. Don't get me wrong, people: I love my dad very much, DESPITE HIS POLITICS, and since we're both residents of California, I can cancel out his vote, and the Dems will still win. Dad, if you're reading this, LAUGH IT OFF! Don't get all mad! We still have Tyler Hamiltongate to agree on!