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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Don’t Quote Me

Dont Quote Me

Amid rumors that Gen. Petraeus’ report on Iraq would be guardedly optimistic, President Bush recently spoke before an audience of veterans about the courage of Americans fighting there. Soon after, presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke before the same audience and echoed the President’s sentiments. It seemed the President suddenly had the Democrats on the defensive. Is there really a difference between them? All three seemed to be singing the same song.

It was an odd moment for the candidates, especially Mr. Obama, who is generally adept at finding something original to say. But neither Obama nor Clinton were willing to point out the obvious, that if success in Iraq was a matter of military might, we’d have won the war a long time ago. Has any one ever suggested that we are having a rough time in Iraq because the troops aren’t up for the fight? What olive branch waving, folk-song singing peacenik has ever claimed that we are losing because Americans aren’t brave? Yet before an audience of veterans, neither candidate could be up front with the fact that it is the President’s policies, not the courage of our fighting forces, that are the source of our problems. Both fell into echoing Bush’s postcard patriotism.

Thus Bush managed to paint himself as a true friend of the military, essentially daring Obama and Clinton to naysay. But why did neither candidate point out that a President who commits our troops to a long-term conflict without a plan is not their friend at all? Did they think the vets incapable of understanding that if a Commander-in-Chief really cared about the armed forces, he’d be more careful about deploying them?

Americans claim to be tired of political slogans, to want a little truth, but when a candidate tries to explain a point in measured, nuanced terms without overstating, and speaks knowledgeably, conveying a sense of balance, viewers get bored and change the channel. Every news programmer knows that lengthy paragraphs lead to ridicule, to accusations of being “wonkish”? and out of touch with the common man.

Last week, I heard a radio talk show featuring Republican candidate Mike Huckabee, a man I’m apt to disagree with about everything. However, on that day, the interviewer asked insightful, open-ended questions that allowed Mr. Huckabee to put his best foot forward and give his ideas an honest airing. He sounded bright. He won’t get my vote, but after hearing him out, I have a bit more respect for him. That’s because the interviewer wasn’t trying to corner him into self-contradiction, or hang him on a fumbled sentence. Now if journalists could display a similar attitude towards all our candidates, we might learn what they really stand for.

Why are the Democrats so timid? Because they’re afraid of being misquoted and misinterpreted. Because with some issues, it’s just safer to utter platitudes and avoid trouble.