At last night’s debate, Tim Russert sought to have fun at Dennis Kucinich’s expense, and succeeded.
"Did you see a UFO?" asked the immoderate moderator. "I did," said Mr. Kucinich, and the place burst into laughter. He struggled on to explain, "It
was (an) unidentified flying object, OK. It’s like — it’s unidentified. I saw something."
If you see an object in the sky and you don’t know what it is, it’s an unidentified flying object. But you see, Superficial America — the version of America that exists on television, on blogs, at press conferences, and throughout political campaigns — has officially decided that Dennis the Menace, whom we all know as flaky to begin with, has duly outdone himself by admitting that he saw a UFO at (and this is the really rich part) Shirley Maclaine’s house. Everybody laugh now.
Yeah, Dennis is a fringe kind of guy, but this is unfair. It’s part of the dumbing-down and oversimplifying function of mass media, and people who live their lives as extension of said media. Call them the Blathering Classes. This shorthand culture demands that everyone fit into an assigned cubicle, preferably one of two choices in each case: Left or Right, Democrat or Republican, winner or loser, conservative or liberal, black or white, yes or no.
We saw the same foolishness at work in the way the other candidates jumped on Hillary Clinton for having answered a question about Gov. Spitzer’s immigrant driver’s license proposal pretty much the way I would:
"You know, Tim, this is where everybody plays ‘gotcha.’ It makes a lot of sense… what is the governor supposed to do? He is dealing with a serious problem. We have failed, and George Bush has failed. Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this — remember, in New York; we want to know who’s in New York, we want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it; we should have passed immigration reform.
John Edwards, who would never be accused of holding a nuanced or complex few of any emotional issue, pounced:
"Unless I missed something, Sen. Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes, uh, just a few minutes ago. And, I think this is a real issue… for the country. I mean, America is looking for a president who will say the same thing, who will be consistent, who will be straight with them.
To my view, a person who explains that this is not an issue with a simple answer, and explains why — which Mrs. Clinton did — is the one who is being straight with us. To expand on something I’ve said before, anyone who thinks there’s a simple answer on this one is either not really thinking, or is NOT being straight with us.
Obama was no better:
I was confused on Sen. Clinton’s answer. I, I, I can’t tell whether she was for it or against it, and I do think that is important. One of the things that we have to do in this country is to be honest about the challenges that we face.
Excuse me? She just did that.
Joe Biden said he wasn’t running against Hillary Clinton; he was running to be leader of the free world, a job he’s actually prepared for over lo these many years. Maybe that’s why he’s doing so poorly; Superficial America has no patience for that sort of thing.
Excellent post, Mr. Warthen.
I am typing up my debate analysis this evening and wish to link to this particular post because it gets at something very disturbing about the media’s and the electorate’s lack of maturity.
Glad to help.
Great post. As a Kucinich supporter, I was disturbed that the very little time he got during the debate was mostly taken up by Russert’s lame UFO ambush.
And I’m especially disappointed that Clinton, whose vote on Iran recently sealed my opposition against her, was the only candidate involved in the drivers’ license question who answered the question with the nuance it deserves. Edwards and Obama are still my fallback candidates, but they disappointed me by pouncing on her. And worse, it appears they have been rewarded in the polls.
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