My usual Sunday morning rituals include a big breakfast, plenty of coffee and watching parts of TV talk shows. I only watch a few minutes of those programs because they don’t really accomplish anything beyond giving political pundits air time to spew their carefully-crafted talking points.
Case in point: the CBS show this morning hosted by Bob Schieffer. He has been a journalist for more than fifty years, much of it on TV. He is smart, well-prepared and has pretty much seen it all; but like many of his colleagues, fails to dig deep enough. The segment I watched featured a strategist or executive representing each of the two major political parties. Schieffer asked the Republican guest about significant inconsistencies relating to Gingrich and Romney, the current leading contenders for a Presidential candidacy. His response repeatedly avoided answering the questions and re-stated the talking points, which basically is that their strategy is to make Obama a one-term President.
Schieffer asked the Democrat several questions relating to Obama’s inability so far to fix the economy and create jobs. The guest’s answers kept coming back to his talking points, which mostly related to members of Congress who he said continued to block the President’s efforts to fix the economy and create jobs. Schieffer thanked both guests and expressed appreciation for their appearance on the show. Maybe he was being sarcastic. It was obvious to me that the current strategy of both party’s representatives is to blame the other using quotable talking points while avoiding what I believe to be the real issue: politics over results.
Presidential campaigns tend to be more like auditions for the starring role in a four-year television series. We elect the auditioning candidates with the most star power of those who are up for the part. Obama-McCain, Bush-Kerry, Bush-Gore, Clinton-Dole, Clinton-previous Bush. Look who won each of those elections. None of them were great presidents, none of them delivered all they promised (although Clinton probably came the closest) and each of the winners in each race could have won American Idol.
Does a President really have the power to make things happen? To lead in a crisis? They do, but not in their leadership of their administration or Congress. Their strength is in leading the voting public to feel good about certain issues. That results in subsequent action by Congress and others. Clinton had plenty of missteps in office but he made us believe that the economy was the issue and that his background in economics could fix it. He left office with a balanced budget; he also made us wonder if he could finish a whole paragraph without telling some kind of lie. Bush seemed dumber than a box of rocks but he showed true leadership in the months following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. He made us feel that our country could find a way to prevent another attack and in some way avenge that one. He played that patriotism card many more times over eight years, but he left us with the economic crisis we are currently in. Obama made us feel we needed change, a changing of the guard, a move to the other end of the boomer spectrum, a new world in Washington. But he doesn’t seem to have a passion for the job and that hurts him now and could hurt him more in the election next year.
Yes, I got all that in a ten minute segment of one TV show. The next segment was about penguins in the Antarctic. Much more fun. Then I switched to the Weather Channel. This afternoon I will engage in another Sunday ritual … watching the Washington Redskins lose another football game. I skip the post-game news conference with the coach – he seems to have the same “non answers” that are so common here in the Washington area.