The news shows were predictable this Easter Sunday. Unable to find any newsmakers to interview, the press returned to norm and interviewed talking heads like themselves. On “Meet the Press”, Tim Russert probed the minds and opinions of Eugene Robinson, Peggy Noonan, Jon Meacham, and Chuck Todd on Iraq and the election. Over on “Face the Nation”, Bob Schieffer found some lightweight politicos, interviewing Lindsey Graham and Jack Reed, but he filled in the rest of his time with the political stylings of Ana Marie Cox, Doyle McManus, and Roger Simon. Not Hall of Fame material, but I guess holiday weekends can be tough to work.
Anyway, one thing which came up a lot of all the shows, was the continuing response to Senator Barack Obama’s long and deep association with race-hate monger Jeremiah Wright. I was particularly amused by the apologists who claimed that Wright’s rants were fine if you heard the whole thing or took them in context. Lying about the causes of HIV and 9/11, and repeatedly calling out “God Damn America” is really hard to put in any context which would justify the visceral racism and hate of such speech, but life as a flunky is not a proud one. The other thing I found interesting, were the set of assumptions made about Obama’s speech last week, the one he hoped would settle the matter. Panelists on the weekend shows had a lot of praise for Obama, for ‘starting a much-needed dialogue on race’. Yeah, right. As if a politician with an agenda is what we need for leadership on that issue. Look, I don’t agree with Hillary Clinton on much of anything, but I will give her props for not trying to start a “dialogue” on gender role in America; she understands better than Obama just how fake she would look if she tried to play that game. And John McCain has never once played his generation against the younger Clinton and Obama, despite the fact that seniors are a fast-growing demographic, and McCain could claim some ground by playing the Grey Card.
The next assumption to heckle, is this notion that there has not been discussion on race. There has, actually has been for a generation or more, but the problem is that a lot of folks just don’t listen to anything which might oppose what they want to hear. I’m old school on that point, I figure if you want to talk to someone, find them and start talking. If they answer, you just might have a conversation and get somewhere from it. What I mean is, the real change always comes at the individual level, real people sorting things out. The only “leadership” in this issue comes from people who motivate folks to talk, to seek out resolution, and who then get out of the way, which pretty much rules out politicians ever being part of the solution.
But another thing I noticed, is this idea that one speech or answer should be enough to settle the matter. Senator Obama is seriously in error, if he thinks that more than two decades of close association with Jeremiah Wright can be explained away in one speech or press conference. In this assumption, Obama displays a weakness which all three of the major candidates exhibit.
Barack Obama is no paladin, no moral leader qualified to announce our course in righting old wrongs and addressing grievances. Neither is Hillary Clinton, nor John McCain. That does not make these people unqualified to run, but it does mean that each of them has to face up to the problems in their resume. Obama, like it or not, has a racism problem to address, and he’d better get started on addressing it in depth. Clinton has her actions as First Lady to explain (not hide), and pretending to have done more than she did is already coming back to haunt her. John McCain’s dislike of conservatives continues to put his fall campaign in serious doubt, as McCain has chosen to depend on support from groups more likely to consider supporting the Democratic nominee. McCain very much appears to have made the same mistake as John Kerry in 2004 and Bob Dole in 1996, believing that early success in-party would insure similar results in the general campaign. As a result, the effort to mobilize the GOP has stalled, McCain continues to ignore the most significant demographic for a Republican candidate in any of the last eight Presidential elections, and critical problems in McCain’s record as a Senator remain unaddressed, which create the potential for major problems when the Democratic nominee brings them up.
This past weekend, the NCAA Basketball Tournament saw a number of upsets. In several cases, it came down to who was able to play for the whole game, to make great plays not just once or twice but as often as necessary. To play tired but without mistakes, to show heart when it cost the most. The three remaining candidates for President are, no doubt, tired of all the travel, all the interviews and conferences and debates which must seem endless and never satisfied. But the candidate who will win in November will be the one who understands that one answer or comment or gesture will not even be close to being enough, that it will take hard work each and every day, with complete answers and detailed discussion of all the issues, that earns the winner the privilege of being harassed and second-guessed for the next four-to-eight years in office.