Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sarah Palin, President of the United States of America

Terrifying isn't it, to contemplate Sarah Palin as president? Think about it: no abortions even if you have been raped, drilling in everyone's backyard, creationism being taught alongside evolution, and, with the middle east ready to boil over, Russia and its former satellites ready to explode, and John McCain unable to tell a Sunni from a Shiite, Palin comes forward with...her experience as head of the PTA. Sounds like the Philip Roth book that envisions what would have happened in the US had the Nazis won WW II.

John McCain isn't independent or a maverick but rather desperate, irresponsible, and assinine.

So what might the consumptive nominee of the Republican party been thinking?

Certainly not that he would attract Hillary Clinton supporters with the Palin pick. If any of these folks could now vote for McCain because of Palin then they certainly could have had no idea who or what they were voting for when they cast a ballot for Clinton. No one supporting Clinton or Clinton's ideas could even remotely consider supporting McCain/Palin. Although Palin has been cynically invoking Clinton's name on the campaign trail in a shameless play for Clinton voters, she shares nothing in common with Clinton other than that she has a vagina. In fact, when all is said and done McCain may well have done more than anyone could have conceived to deliver Clinton supporters to Obama.

Could it then have been Palin's experience? Heading up the PTA, acting as mayor of an Inuit village, or even governing Alaska just isn't enough to seriously consider someone for a position but one step removed from the Presidency. John McCain the alleged patriot, the man who supposedly loves this country just made crystal clear that he doesn't give a damn about anything other than getting elected. That he thought choosing Palin was the way to do this also underlines his complete and utter lack of judgement. If there was any question before that McCain was a hairtrigger martinet with nothing but silly putty between his ears, his choice of Palin, who Paul Begala rightly said is several pounds shy of being a lightweight, should put an end to all that.

Americans are a funny lot though and it is certainly possible that enough of them will be swayed by McCain's follies and Palin's frontier libertarianism or buy the goods hocked by the pundits--that McCain has found his maverick groove again, that he has great political instincts, that his choice of Palin is a game changer, and all the other tired bs that the press receives from McCain's staff and promptly publishes, no questions asked.

Here's hoping that in November voters will apply the only the sex education strategy Palin would support as governor of the Moose state (abstinence), and respond to her and the ghastly grandpa's vulgar entreaties with a resounding, no.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Say it Ain't So, Barack: Obama Chooses Joe Biden as his Running Mate

Obama's choice of Joe Biden as his VP is both brave and foolhardy--reminiscent of Custer's last stand in Montana, Napolean at Waterloo, or Britney Spears' marriage to Kevin Federline.

Obama and his drones clearly calculated that Biden's supposed foreign policy experience, acquired primarily in his self-serving blusterings and theatrics as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, outweighed his mantra for change and the need to get white working class voters like those Hillary Clinton ended up getting in the Democratic primary.

Obama's chances have been slim to none from the outset, and his sloughing off his leitmotif of change and brazen run for the center or even center-right on issues such as gun control, privacy/security, offshore drilling, etc., in the general election are indication of just how aware Obama is of his weaknesses.

It then is all the more puzzling why he would choose someone like Biden. Biden has run for President two times now, engendering both times the interest and excitement of watching paint dry on a wall. Also, while Biden may appeal to a few liberals who aren't bothered by his craven opportunism (in typical Biden fashion on the Iraq War he was for this when it was popular, against it when it wasn't), there is no indication that Biden will have any popularity with the kinds of voters in Ohio, Florida, Missouri, Virginia or any of the swing states that Obama needs so desperately to have a chance of winning in November. Sam Nunn or even George Mitchell would have been a far better pick both in terms of experience and pull with these more conservative voters.

Most dangerous, is Obama's slap-in-the-face to Hillary Clinton supporters. He is not doing well with many of these folks it seems and he has now all but written them off. For anyone who was on the fence his choosing of Biden, coupled with Obama's not even seriously considering Clinton as a possible VP, will ensure that many of her supporters do not vote at all or will vote for McCain.

Obama's disrespect of this group is so flagrant, in fact, that it indicates he believes he can win without these voters. For this to be the case, however, he would have to register and then turn out enough new voters to make up for those he has alienated. This is unlikely in the extreme.

Don't get me wrong. I do not have a lot of sympathy for HC. She ran a dumb campaign and when all is said and done, was beaten fair and square. She was clearly the more electible candidate in the general election, though, and Obama's only chance of winning, slim as it was, was ensuring that he could bring her voters back into the fold. Choosing her as VP might not have accomplished this and with her on the ticket may well have brought other problems. That said, he needed to reach out to her, signal that he was seriously considering her, and, most important, do everything in his power to acquire her voters.

That he hasn't done this and, indeed, has signalled that white working class voters are not important to a Democratic victory in the Fall, all but ensures that Democrats will once again go down to a stinging, dumbheaded, and unnecessary defeat.

Obama's calculations in the primary were nearly flawless and he has, despite what many have said, been running a very good general election campaign. His math has gone wildly wrong with his pick of Biden, though, and Democrats are almost certainly going to pay the price in November.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Silent Majority or Sleeping Giant? John McCain’s Potential Secret Weapon

John McCain, the consumptive Republican nominee is making history, too, just like Clinton and Obama. Should the unspeakable come to pass and McCain be elected president, he would, at age 72, be the oldest president to assume office.

So add to the historic 2008 US presidential election and the first black nominee of a major party, and the first woman to seriously compete for a major party’s nomination, McCain’s age, even if it is frequently the subject of quite a bit of mirth from the late night talk show hosts and considered a disadvantage by most politicians and pundits.

McCain obviously is worried about his age, too, frequently trotting out his 94-year-old mother to feature his good bloodlines and his own relative youth. On at least one occasion, he has spoken about the importance of choosing a vice president qualified to assume the presidency, even hinting at the possibility McCain might be a one-term president. And, of course, there are few Democrats who don’t relish the idea of contrasting the slim and youthful Obama with the ghastly complexioned, hoary-headed McCain.

But in reality McCain’s age may not be such a drawback. Ronald Reagan was 69 when he became president and, despite the fact he was probably senile some of the time, served two terms and currently enjoys a major place in the Republican party’s hagiography. Remember when Reagan famously said in a debate with Mondale in the ’84 election that he would not “exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience”? McCain isn’t that clever but he is certain to showcase his years of experience while mercilessly attacking Obama’s lack of the same. And if the Iraq war goes sideways anymore than it has already, security becomes a more prominent issue through new terrorist attacks, or Iran spins out of control, McCain’s experience and even if his age could become an advantage.

And consider this: the US Census Bureau in its latest published report on population projections for the U.S, projected that post-World War II baby boomers in their 50s would increase 12 million from 1996-2006, to about 38 million, a figure that represents more than half of the country’s total population growth over this period (the latest Census Bureau figures from 1995-2006 show an actual increase of a little more than 13 million over this period). See http://www.census.gov/population/www/projections/reports.html.

And the 85 and over crowd? According to the report, this group is expected to double in size from 1996-2025, and increase a whopping fivefold by 2050. With figures like these McCain’s mom could run and have a chance.

This is all a little tongue-in-cheek and the explosive growth in especially the 85 and older crowd will occur after McCain’s presidential fate is decided and, despite the increases, there still won't be that many octogenarians. That said, McCain's age isn’t much of a liability. We are aging as a population as the Census Bureau numbers attest and boomers especially will by their sheer numbers, education and all the other things that make boomers boomers, already are expanding our notion of what older people can do. It isn’t for nothing that all of the nightly news programs have advertisements for denture cleaners, adult diapers, drugs for ED and the like. McCain isn't himself a boomer but close enough that especially old voters--boomers born just after the war and those closer to McCain's age--may identify more with McCain than a younger candiate.

And with blacks and women able to pour their hopes and dreams into Obama and Clinton, why shouldn’t the Geritol crowd or the soon-to-be Geritol crowd, too, have someone they can look to?
So if McCain will just stop acting like an old poop—grimacing at the cameras, using terms like “my friends,” over and over again when addressing crowds, and winking lasciviously in the glare of the media lights—he could even be seen as part of the Zeitgeist, embodying the spirit of this rapidly aging time, or at least making a potential liability into something else.

McCain’s got a lot of friends or potential friends, at any rate. All he has to do now is make sure he doesn’t put them to sleep.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Courting Women or Courting Disaster: Obama and the General Election

The Democratic primary contests ended last night with a little bit of a surprise when Hillary Clinton won South Dakota, a state that most people didn’t think she was likely to win. Obama, though, won Montana, as expected, and, more important, became the Democrats' presumptive nominee when about 30 uncommitted superdelegates declared for him after the close of both primaries. This is an exciting time for any Democrat but especially for black voters who helped elect Obama as the first black nominee of any major party in the history of this country.

As exciting and meaningful as this is, it has become patently clear over the last month or so of the campaign that another group of voters has poured their hopes and dreams into Hillary Clinton with the same passion, urgency, and sense of expectation that blacks have done with Obama.

They are women, of course, and especially older women. They’ve made their presence felt throughout the campaign as the largest bloc of voters and many have supported Clinton from the beginning of the campaign. But they have become particularly energized in recent weeks, not only turning out in droves to hear Clinton speak but to vote in states like Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia and, last night, South Dakota. The crowds have been huge, raucous, and there has been, late in the campaign, an energy that wasn’t there in the past. Increasingly, women voters also appear to be furious at the perception that Obama, the media, and the Democratic National Committee are conspiring to prevent Clinton from getting the Party’s nomination.

A lot of people, me included, have largely overlooked this phenomenon or at least the extent of women’s passion for Clinton and what it means for the general election, focusing more on a race, working class voters, Keith Olbermann’s hairpiece or something other than gender.

A recent example of Clinton supporters’ passion was on display at last Saturday’s meeting of the Democratic Party’s rules committee that seemed to me, at the time, just kind of curious and even silly.

As the committee heard arguments on seating the Florida and Michigan delegates that the DNC had stripped from each state’s slate as punishment for flouting the DNC’s primary calendar, many of Clinton’s supporters inside the DC hotel where the committee met frequently shouted and tried to interrupt when representatives for Obama argued against seating all delegates at full strength or said anything that did not recognize fully, or “fairly reflect,” in the apportioning of delegates HC’s vote totals in each state. Many others protested outside.

There was, thus, much hue and cry when the rules committee not only gave the “uncommitted” Michigan vote to Obama, who was not on the ballot in state, and, even worse, gave him an additional four delegates that were seemingly conjured out of the thin air of advance polls, eye of newt, and lord knows what else. During the day-long meeting there was at least one scuffle when a woman supporting Clinton pushed an Obama supporter. Others were led from the building when they became particularly loud and disruptive.

As I said, I didn’t give the hullabaloo much thought at the time. But not much later, when my wife, with whom I talk about all kinds of things and probably politics more than anything, became herself so furious at Hillary Clinton’s fate that she threw a plate of pasta across the room, shattering it in a million pieces, I took notice. Like many other women I have spoken with recently, my wife looks at Clinton as someone who had not only had to fight to be taken seriously because of her gender, or is frequently critiqued on her appearance, emotion or just about anything other than her abilities, but as someone who would both symbolically break through the glass ceiling thereby aiding others in getting through it as well. And, with the plate as testament, she, like a lot of other women, feels passionately about Clinton and what she represents, and to an extent that not even I was aware.

In other words, women’s reactions to Clinton’s candidacy are just as strong as many blacks’ feelings for Obama’s and based on similarly deep-seated experiences of discrimination, humiliation, and the knowledge that many avenues in life may be narrowed or closed altogether simply because of one’s race or gender . These two camps, while not at war exactly, have an awful lot vested in this election, aside from the specific political policies and changes each candidate would bring to Washington. They also have lot in common.

Because Obama is for all intents and purposes the nominee now, it is he, though, who will have to deal with the passion of women voters scorned and it is he who will have to make clear how much Democrats have in common, whether they are Clinton or Obama supporters. He certainly seems exactly the man to get people to step out of their own skins some and, indeed, the foundation of his campaign is all about bringing disparate groups together. So where better to start than the Democratic party?

More concretely, Obama simply cannot afford to lose especially those women voters over 40. If he does he will have no chance of winning the election. Because I believe that Obama is keenly aware of this and, more important, very aware of both his strengths and weaknesses with voters in other demographic groups he will have to acquire in the general election, I think he will move very soon to make Hillary Clinton his choice for vice president.

It won’t be a popular move for most Clinton supporters or Obama supporters at first, but just as Obama was way ahead of the curve in assessing both potential voters and the ins and outs of the Democratic primary obstacle course, it will be the right move, and the one most likely to draw together the powerful but fractured constituencies that are so crucial to a Democratic victory in November.

Consider it one of his first tests of the general election.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Democratic Campaign 2008: More on the Rules Committee’s Decisions

On the day of the Democratic rules committee decision to seat the Florida and Michigan delegates I wrote that despite the arbitrary way they dealt with especially Michigan, each candidate got something—Obama an end to the last real obstacles to his nomination and Clinton more support for the argument that she has won nearly all the big states and the swing states, and, thus is more electible in November and, for any superdelegate who may still be listening, a legitimate claim that she is ahead in the popular vote.

I want to look a little closer at Hillary Clinton’s victory, such as it is, and explain what I meant, especially with respect to including Michigan as part of the popular vote.

Leave aside the fact that only Chris Dodd’s name was on the Michigan ballot in addition to Clinton’s and that Clinton ended up with 55 percent of the votes and 40 percent went to “uncommitted.”

Disregard that in awarding 69 delegates to Clinton and 59 to Obama (Both these figures must be halved because the rules committee docked them this much as punishment for each state’s ignoring the DNC’s primary calendar),the Democratic witches and warlocks threw into the bubbling cauldron a rough approximation based on Clinton’s vote, advance polls indicating how many votes each candidate would receive, and, more than likely, the eye of a toad in order to conjure the supernatural delegate totals.

Forget that the rules committee’s treatment of Michigan makes a mockery of the notion that every vote should be counted.

Because, despite the fuzzy math and the paranormal tricks, thanks to the rules committee, Clinton can claim victory not only in these states, but legitimately count the popular vote in each, something heretofore thought pretty much inconceivable, given the fact that the DNC itself, with the agreement of both Clinton and Obama, had taken these states off the table.

In a way only Clinton can do, she is slicing and dicing this measure in extraordinary ways though to what end, as she has almost no chance of winning at this point, is unclear. As of Saturday, Clinton was saying with a face made nearly straight by the rules committee’s decisions that day that she was beating Obama in the popular vote although almost no one in the media or anywhere other than the Clinton campaign was saying this.

How did she get there? She included the votes she received in both Florida and Michigan, tossed out several of the caucuses Obama won because no official vote tallies were kept and, despite the rules committee’s awarding him nearly half the delegates in Michigan, gave zero popular votes in Michigan to Obama because, she said, he wasn’t on the ballot. All of which could be considered at once technically correct, ham-handed, duplicitous, and vintage Hillary Clinton. Clinton’s ads in Montana and South Dakota, the final primaries, in this long strange trip, tout the popular vote lead, and her advisor, Howard Ickes, was all over the news on Sunday telling Meet the Press’ Tim Russert and anyone else who would listen that Clinton was ahead in the popular vote.

Clinton’s manipulations and self-serving representations of the popular vote totals is pretty preposterous even by her standards given that she at least tacitly agreed, along with many others, with the DNC’s asinine penalty to strip Florida and Michigan of all delegates when she signed a pledge with the states of Iowa and New Hampshire not to campaign in the upstart states. However, you can’t blame her for doing this any more than you can blame Obama for essentially blackmailing the superdelegates to vote for him and not overturn the will of the people, or that is, anyway, the will of the people as represented by the number of pledged delegates even though the number separating him and Clinton could be around 100 or so when the final primaries come to an end tomorrow. Obama’s argument is given teeth that it wouldn’t otherwise have because so many of his supporters are black and the party cannot risk alienating such a stalwart and important element of its base.

The DNC, its rules committee, and leaders such as DNC Chair, Howard Dean, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, have encouraged these shenanigans. It was bad enough that they only too happily disenfranchised voters in Florida and Michigan—two states that are crucial to Democrats chances in the general election—or for Pelosi to say, as she and nearly every other Democratic leader has done, that the superdelegates should not overturn the pledged delegates, no matter how thin the margin separating the candidates. But for the DNC to come up with the hare-brained apportionment of delegates in Michigan based on partial votes and the will of the rules committee instead of Michigan primary voters has too many echoes of rigged elections and the nightmarish incompetence in Florida in the 2000 general election.

The DNC has one hell of a lot to answer for this time around but to paraphrase Keith Olbermann of MSNBC who used the phrase to excoriate Hillary Clinton for her RFK assassination comments recently, there is one thing for which we cannot forgive the DNC. We cannot forgive that after this primary election, just like Bush’s infamous victory over Gore in 2000, an awful lot of people will have reason to believe that the 2008 Democratic election process was unfair and that the nominee of the Party, whether Clinton, or as is likely the case, Obama, may be illegitimate.

It just doesn’t get any worse than this when it comes to elections and the result, as it frequently is in such situations, is likely to be as disastrous for Democrats as it was in 2000.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

What Rules? The Democratic Rules Committee Carve Up Florida and Michigan

Just a few thoughts on today's interminable meeting of the Democratic rules committee which met to decide whether/how to allocate delegates in Florida and Michigan. These are the states, of course, which held primaries earlier than permitted by the Democratic National Committee, and which the latter, in all its wisdom, initially decided to strip of all delegates for the transgression.

The outcome was predetermined. Despite the day-long and frequently inarticulate ramblings of the committee members on all matters under the sun, the outcome seemed pre-ordained. And, indeed, there was a lot of talk before today that the committee would do exactly what it did--seat all the pledged delegates in both states but reduce their vote from 1 to 1/2 and allocate these proportionately based on the vote in Florida, which HRC won 50 percent to 33 percent for Obama. HC thus received 19 more delegates than Obama for Florida (based on a 105 to 67 split in delegates with each divided by half) and an extra 5 pledged delegates (69-59 reduced by 1/2) in Michigan even though she won 55 percent of the vote in the state and Obama was not on the ballot. No matter that both of these solutions, especially the wholly arbitrary allotment of delegates in Michigan, should have everyone shaking his or her head whether a Clinton or Obama supporter. Superdelegates for both states were also restored but each is also to count as 1/2 vote.

Obama and Clinton both got something. Obama basically got the nomination because, barring a challenge by Clinton to the credentials committee, the next circle in Democratic hell, the issue of what to do with the Florida and Michigan voters has been resolved with Obama still firmly in the lead in pledged delegates. When the last of the primaries is over on Tuesday, and with the help of just a few superdelegates, Obama almost certainly will have locked up the nomination. And Clinton? By giving her victories in Florida and Michigan she can add these states to her list of "big" or "swing" states. After the primaries are over on Tuesday, she can probably legitimately say that she won the popular vote, the focus of her campaign for some time now. What it is, exactly, she plans to do with this is anyone's guess.

Howard Ickes, like Harold Wolfson, one of the top strategists and advisors in Hillary Clinton's campaign, is simply repugnant. Like many in the Clinton campaign both advisors ooze arrogance, elitism, and a win-at-all-costs mentality. Not the face, certainly, that you want representing you publically, anyway. Yet, Ickes, who is also a rules committee member, was making Hillary's case to count fully all delegates and, in Michigan, to award them proportionately, based on the 55 percent vote she received and the 40 percent that went to "uncommitted. " Nothing to Obama, in other words, as his name wasn't on the ballot. No big deal, right, that Clinton and company were in full agreement with the DNC's wood-headed decision to disenfranchise voters in Florida and Michigan from the outset and that she herself said that the votes in both states would not count? And to people like CNN's Wolf Blitzer who preface their discussion of Ickes as a "brilliant strategist," I say what's so brilliant about dismissing the caucus states, thinking that the Clinton machine would have it wrapped up after Super Tuesday, and ignoring for much of the campaign smaller campaign doners.

Obama's not putting his name on the ballot in Michigan wasn't an oversight. Pat Buchanan, among others, has said it was "politics 101" for a candidate to make sure that his/her name was on the ballot in Michigan, even though the candidates knew that the delegates would not be seated in the state. He thus gave Clinton an "A" for doing this, for thinking of all contingencies, and an "F" to Obama for being shortsighted. Based on the deadly accurate voting projections for each state the Obama campaign has produced throughout the campaign, Obama's decision to not include his name on the ballot seems like a very calculated one. He would not have won this state had his name been on the ballot and certainly not received nearly half of the delegates as the rules committee ended up awarding him today based on smoke and mirrors, sleight of hand, and channeling the spirit of Richard Daley the elder.

The Democratic party is anything but democratic. Despite the quasi-legal proceedings and the appearance of genuine give-and-take, today's proceedings were more akin to a kangeroo court, and, as mentioned, the outcome predetermined. It is simply the latest element in the Democrat's nominating process that throws into relief how inefficient, creaky, and, yes, un-democratic, the process is. If nothing else, let's hope that Howard Dean, the DNC's Chair, is run out of town, the caucuses and superdelegates scrapped, awarding of delegates by divination (Texas, etc.) done away with, and a winner-take all process, similar to the Republicans', at least seriously considered.

Friday, May 30, 2008

News as Commodity: Selling the 2008 Race for the Presidency

Politico’s John Harris recently gave some insight into what, for lack of a better term, I’ll call commercial blogging (How small stories become big news, May 27, http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0508/1004.html).

His point of departure was the recent dustup involving Hillary Clinton’s comments about the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968, shortly after his primary victory in California. Clinton cited his assassination in June, along with hubby Bill’s not having wrapped up the Democratic nomination in June, 1992 as reasons for her continuing on at this relative late date in the 2008 primary. In other words, she was saying, the race ain’t over ‘til it’s over and it would be premature for her to leave when so little separates the candidates in terms of pledged delegates and popular vote, especially when neither candidate can be elected based on pledged delegates alone.

Harris said that when the news of Clinton’s words to a South Dakota newspaper editorial board came in, on May 23, he exhorted fellow Politico writer, Jonathan Martin, who was already furiously blogging away to get something about it on the site as soon as possible. His blog, like many other large blogs, wanted to get anything, whether right or wrong, or in or out of context, up on the site because the posting of a potentially controversial post can be a primary driver of traffic to the blog, in general. Or, as Harris himself writes, “The truth about what Clinton said—and any fair-minded appraisal of what she meant—was entirely beside the point.”

In other words, who cares if it is correct, and whether the post amounts to creating news out of something trivial or minor or reporting it? Harris says that in retrospect, Politico’s entry as well as many others on the Internet about the RFK assassination were hype, piffle, and lacked “proportionality.” Clinton’s words, while poorly chosen, were references to events that occurred late in a campaign and, as such, the reference simply to a point in time in which the Party’s nominee was still not decided. You could almost see Harris wringing his hands as he bemoaned the haste to post the dramatic and breathless RFK post and the practice, in general, though to his credit, he at least admitted that he is “unapologetic in our premium on high velocity” and that in this regard “we are not different from nearly all news sites these days.” Still, I would have felt a lot better if he’d simply said this wouldn’t happen again. Unfortunately, there was no such pronouncement, just a self-serving blog that, in this context, is little better than navel gazing.

The frequently uncritical, unresearched, and shamelessly dramatic blog postings are bad enough but, even worse, is the fact that this also affects, more generally, the television news programs and the print media. The cable network, MSNBC, is a case in point. On May 23, the day of HC’s RFK comment, Keith Olbermann devoted one of his vapid “special commentaries” to the situation in his program, Countdown, accusing the Democratic candidate of implying that Clinton was waiting around for Obama to be assassinated, that she was a racist, and that she was relying on Republican bogeyman, Karl Rove, for many of her campaign tactics. “We have forgiven you for these things,” Olbermann pontificated but for the assassination remark “we cannot forgive you this,” he continued.

While Olbermann, who James Carville once said was about “2 degrees short of self-combustion,” finally did explode in his silly tirade, his behavior was simply a more wacko version of the reportage that was taking place in the blogs and the television news: dramatic, self-righteous, lacking in context, and, most disturbingly, almost certainly a function of not reporting the news and informing people but rather attracting viewer and reader traffic for the sake of advertising dollars. Chris Mathews, Olbermann’s colleague and host of his own program, Hardball, engaged in similar hyperbole, mischaracterizing and losing all sense of proportion. Mathews has continued to devote significant segments of his program to this non-story.

A cursory search of the Internet or a few minutes of channel surfing the cable news networks even today, one week after the fact, reveals the same—lots of hype about a story that doesn’t have any legs or wouldn’t anyway, were it not for the media trying to wring every last dollar out of what would otherwise be a non-event, or, at best, an event worthy of a couple minutes of discussion. More important than any of these, which have little reader/viewership, are the big three television news programs and national newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post. All of these had, as soon as possible, articles or segments devoted to the RFK remarks that distinguished themselves from one another only by the level of breathlessness each exhibited.

So what, if anything, are we to make of such crass and commercial behavior? One thing to take away from this is that a wealth of information, doesn’t necessarily mean better information. With many blogs and television news programs driven primarily to be first or most dramatic, it is just as likely that the information you are reading is, like the RFK remark, much ado about nothing, and may well say less about the candidates or substantive issues than it does about the people reporting it and the organizations for which they work.

It is inevitable that there will continue to be shoddy reporting delivered in an entertainment atmosphere—to spice things up Olbermann, for example, intersperses his rants with dwarf tossing, images of the world’s largest latrine, and the like—as long as blogs, print and television news and anything that can generate ad dollars are bought by large companies and consolidated to the point where they have little or no independence and where there primary motivations are advertising dollars.

The implications of such reporting aren’t trivial, though. One need look no further than the speed and ease with which the media embedded themselves with the Bush administration and helped not only the push to war with Iraq but its prosecution. Or to the uncritical acceptance of the PR flak generals the television news programs hired for their supposedly unbiased analysis of the war in Iraq. In his recently published book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, even Scott McClellan, Bush’s former press secretary for Pete’s sake, calls the press out on the carpet for being weak, uncritical and, almost to a fault, under the sway of the Bush Administration’s dangerous gibberish concerning the war in Iraq, among other things.

So, given this track record you wouldn’t expect the media to act any differently in the 2008 race for the presidency.

And, of course, they do not disappoint, focusing on artificial ups and downs, trivial comments blown into “Bittergates” class warfare, and race baiting instead of the candidates’ positions on the various issues, whether their policies would be feasible, or who would be most electable, based on the demographic information, voting patterns, and other quantitative information available to anyone with the time to look at it. In the world of today’s media it is, unfortunately, completely believable and even expected that the focus is more on Michelle Obama’s comments about being truly proud to be an American for the first time, or Bill Clinton’s remarks comparing Obama’s victory in South Carolina to Jesse Jackson’s victories there in 1984 and 1988 than George W. Bush’s statement that he fully approved of the various methods of torture, including waterboarding, that the clandestine services have been engaging in under the auspices of Dick Cheney and others when interrogating supposed terrorists.

In the end, with the media’s increasing focus on entertainment and advertising dollars, drama without content, and race to be the first no matter the cost, it’s buyer, reader, and viewer beware.

Just as when you assess the wares of any greed head interested only in how much money they can extract from you.