Thanks to my friend, Mike Carter , for this little bit of weekend fun.
Our attention spans are being challenged.
Lipstick, hockey moms, pit bulls and pigs. Is this really what we want to determine who our next President will be?
Are we left to listen to 30 second ads that go beyond distortion?
I celebrate my 53rd birthday on September 12.
All I want for my birthday is for my fellow Americans to wake up and tell the candidates, their confidantes, the pundits and the media to give us two months of serious discourse on what we need to do solve the real challenges we face.
It is time to get serious.
It's funny how the media can't tell us enough about how political conventions these days are four day "infomercials" for the parties. And yet, their coverage of them actually ends up validating them as infomercials. The 24 hour cable networks keep repeating the same spin and punditry all day long and the three old school networks treat them as a four hour mini-series with a one hour episode each night. Jon Stewart probably has it right. Thanks to the Bulldog Reporter for this take on convention coverage via the host of "The Daily Show.
|As Convention Coverage Locks In, Jon Stewart Hammers Mainstream Media for Lazy Campaign-Spin 'Regurgitation'|
|As Comedy Central's "Daily Show" descends on Denver for four days of coverage, Jon Stewart took after the "established" media for getting too cozy with candidates and regurgitating campaign spin when it comes to political coverage. In a breakfast with reporters, Stewart directed most of his ire at the 24-hour cable news networks, which he called "gerbil wheels," and said the media at-large had "abdicated" to what he called the "slow-witted beast." He said the never-ending television news cycle creates a "false sense of urgency" and forces reporters to "follow the veins that have been mined," instead of pursuing serious and in-depth reporting, CNN reports.|
Even as Stewart shredded reporters for, in his estimation, getting too cozy with and used by political candidates, he readily admitted that candidates flock to his show to attract his much sought after younger audience. "It's just one part of their sales pitch," he said, reports CNN political producer Sasha Johnson.
Stewart said he found neither Sens. McCain or Obama particularly funny and it was "absolutely irrelevant" which one takes the White House because "the jokes will be there." He dismissed criticism that comedians are having a hard time joking about Obama because of his race and said "the age joke with McCain is somewhat meaningless because it's already trite."
The choice of Joe Biden as Obama's runningmate, Stewart said, was refreshing because of the Delaware senator's large personality and endless possibility for jokes. "Biden is really nice. His style is so effusive and unguarded," Stewart said. "He's emotion plus."
Stewart said politicians in recent campaigns are "animatronic" because all of the "humanity has been managed out of campaigns." He referenced the back-and-forth during the Pennsylvania Democratic primary over Obama's lack of bowling skills.
"It's stunning where this election is going to be decided on," he said. "Or what we allow it to be decided on."
I didn't intend to take the summer off from Citizen Brand. It just happened. But I'm going to take that one small step back into the 'sphere and see how it feels.It was a great summer. A lot of successful work and some great play made it a full season. The weather in the heartland has been rare. More rain than usual and less heat. If we had more summers like this we would attract tourists.
It took 40 years. America has fought four wars, one of which is still raging. The world is a remarkably different place in June of 2008 versus June of 1968, but there is one very strong connection. Barack Obama is the true heir to the presidency that should have been.
As we head to the next showdown in the best political race in a generation, Rich Harwood has a nice take on the ad campaigns of Obama and Clinton evoking the fear tactics of the Walter Mondale's Red Phone or Reagan's Bear in the Woods ads of years gone by. I will reprint it below or you can link to it here . Rich is a smart guy who makes you think beyond the answers of the moment and focus on what can be in the moments of tomorrow.
It’s jolting and ominous. Indeed, the dueling Clinton-Obama “red phone” ads are a throw-back to previous eras, a time of the cold war, a bear in the woods, daisies and detonation. The red phone is an icon of fear, often used when other arguments fail. But that’s just it: the red phone is about the past. I want to look to the future, one rooted in our present-day reality.
This campaign has given us Senator Obama, who has captured many people’s imagination; Senator Clinton, who has demonstrated just how tough she is; and Senator McCain, an American hero. But my concern here is not about media buys, “get out the vote” operations, or how to excite people and motivate them to vote. I have no problem with tough-minded ads.
My concern is that I want candidates who call us to look to the future by genuinely reflecting and understanding the present. We’re squarely barreling into the 21st Century, whether we like it or not and things have changed dramatically from the 1990s, or even from 2004. For instance:
• In just the past few years the auto industry has undergone a total makeover, well beyond changes in the 1980s and 90s. With tens of thousands of workers recently laid off or bought out, the auto industry of the future is not the one of our childhood.
• The Internet has altered how we get information and news and with whom we connect, changing what and who we know, and how communities function.
• While younger Americans are re-entering politics, the huge baby boomer generation is retiring and seeking meaningful things to do; yet no one is clearly proposing how to tap into this energy, other than to say, “Vote for me!”
• National security issues have fundamentally changed in the last eight years, with terrorism, the further emergence of China, an increasingly testy Russia, just to mention top-of-the-head issues.
With fundamental shifts taking place in this country and around the world, old discussions about the same old issues won’t work. Nor will simply updating various policy proposals, arguing endlessly about who voted for NAFTA and what they think today, or talking about speeches vs. solutions.
I remember sitting in a restaurant in New Hampshire in 1995 with a group of citizens I was interviewing for a project with the Pew Center for Civic Journalism. The project was built around listening to Americans talk about their concerns and hopes. People talked movingly and with deep frustration about how their factory jobs had gone overseas. They were clear that something was changing in America, but weren’t exactly sure what, and they were holding on for dear life to the past. Of course, that’s not uncommon, we all do that.
But there’s little doubt today that the world has gone through a major transformation and that we are not returning to the 1980s, or even the 1990s. What’s more, no president alone can shape the future, or craft a new, complete and cogent narrative for the nation. Such changes emerge only over time. And yet, a candidate for the presidency and future president can help us “turn” toward the future, so that we can begin to see it and address it. You see, the fundamental choice before us is not simply a matter of debating one policy or another, but a choice about our orientation concerning the next leg of our common journey.
When I was 23 years old, several presidents ago, I was a young aide to senior staff for the Mondale for President Campaign. That campaign also produced a red phone television ad, one used against Senator Gary Hart (D-CO). Just a few short years later, in 1987, I made the decision to start what has become The Harwood Institute for Public Innovation, in part because I felt that politics had become more about striking fear into people’s hearts, than tapping into their aspirations and solving problems.
In many respects, politics is on the upswing this year. The positive changes have been a long-time in the making, a manifestation, I believe, of Americans’ long-held aspirations for a better politics and public life. Which leads me back to the red phone: this year’s race, I believe, is the first in recent times to be squarely about the new century, about an era already upon us, one which represents a fundamentally different trajectory for our nation. If, as I believe, our trajectory is fundamentally different from era’s past, then I want a campaign which talks about that different path and how we can take it.
We will be talking about the 2008 presidential election for decades to come. And it won't be because of voters in Chicago accused of voting more than once (Kennedy v. Nixon in 1960) or hanging chads and Supreme Court votes (Bush v. Gore in 2000). No, this time we will be thinking back on an election that has had candidates that voters actually were supporting and issues that were actually being discussed. And here it is the day after Super Duper Tsunami Tuesday and we still don't know exactly who will be on the ballot in November. Isn't it great?
A Hollywood screenwriter looking for work right now instead of a picket line could not write some of the story lines that are unfolding right before our very eyes. Rush Limbaugh, the conservatives' favorite comedic radio host is doing everything he can to submarine the apparent Republican front running John McCain. Mike Huckabee, who has no money compared to everyone else, manages to win a few states on Tuesday catapulting himself into top challenger status in the GOP race. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney would have to spend $1.33 billion dollars to win enough delegates to take the nomination away from either McCain or Huckabee. That is based on what he has spent thus far to win the paltry number of delegates he has scraped off the floor since the snows of Iowa.
Then there is the Democratic race. This time last year, Hillary Clinton was all but anointed as the nominee. Turn the page to February, 2008 and she finds herself running neck and neck with Barack Obama. The first legitimate chance for either a woman or an African-American to be elected President of the United States and they wake up each morning realizing they are battling each other for the right to live at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. And today, she revealed she had to loan her own campaign $5 million to keep it going. Obama is out-raising her in donations by a big margin.
And the talk is already beginning of a deadlocked convention and smoke filled back rooms deciding the Democratic nominee. Wait a minute, there won't be any smoke filled rooms inside any building in Denver for the convention. Those meetings will have to occur outside.
This is what I mean. You cannot make this stuff up. We are witness to a remarkable story in 2008. Don't blink. You might miss something.
As the famous line goes - "We have seen the enemy and it is us." We want to believe that we are paying attention to presidential candidates and their stands on issues so we can make informed and competent decisions in the voting booth. But we can't help ourselves. We get sucked into the "horse race." Who is ahead in the Zogby Poll today; the New York Times poll tomorrow; and, the Nickelodeon/ESPN/O Magazine Poll due out tomorrow.....
As Super Duper Tuesday approaches, the latest national polling shows Barack Obama surging and closing the gap on Hillary Clinton. It shows John McCain building a lead over Mitt Romney and it seems clear that Mike Huckabee is submarining Romney by splitting the "conservative" vote.
Polls are instructive. They do give us a sense of where things stand at that moment in time. But then we need a new poll right away to keep the buzz going....is Obama still surging? Is McCain really starting to pull away from Romney or will the next poll tell us something different.
And so it goes. The media serves as the drug dealer on the corner feeding the horse race frenzy. Read this piece by Jay Rosen over at Pressthink to go a little deeper on this subject. As you will see in Jay's piece, the media hasn't faired so well in their horse race predictions this year which has further contributed to this once or twice in a century electoral experience. Of course the media's lack of success has also caused us no shortage of roller coaster rides as they attempt to fix their errors. Jay points to one ray of sunshine in this exchange between Tom Brokaw and Chris Matthews on the night of the New Hampshire Primary:
"“BROKAW: You know what I think we’re going to have to do?
“MATTHEWS: Yes sir?
“BROKAW: Wait for the voters to make their judgment.
“MATTHEWS: Well what do we do then in the days before the ballot? We must stay home, I guess.”
Matthews was being the realist: Without who’s-going-to-win, “we” might as well stay home. Brokaw (now long retired as the face of the NBC brand) gave him an apt warning in response: “The people out there are going to begin to make judgments about us if we don’t begin to temper that temptation to constantly try to get ahead of what the voters are deciding.” But he was speaking as if the media had a mind and could shift course."
A novel concept indeed.....let the voters vote and then report on how they voted.
Hillary Clinton had a big applause line in the Hollywood Showdown starring her and Barack Obama at the Kodak Theater on Thursday night. She was asked how she could possibly represent change when the same two families (hers and the Bushes) have been in The White House since 1980. Her response, while clever, points out why Republicans are praying every night that she is the Democratic nominee.
I paraphrase a bit, but in essence she said it took a Clinton to clean up the first Bush presidency and it would take another Clinton to clean up the second Bush presidency. It was met with the biggest applause of the night from the glitterati of Hollywood in the audience. Heck, CNN even went to commercial over the applause as if they had just handed out the Oscar for Best Actress!
Can you imagine what we would think if two families in the United Kingdom, or France, or Germany, or Japan had basically shared executive power for 28 years straight? Interesting to think about it from that perspective isn't it?
Super Duper Tuesday is coming and it may be the day that the November ballot for President begins to take final form. There is tremendous interest in this election as there should be. We all have different motivations for making decisions when we vote. I have to believe that whether it is conscious or unconscious, there is an underlying feeling in many voters that 28 years of the Bushes and the Clintons is enough. We will see on Tuesday if I'm right.
An important postscript - it was amazing to see a woman and an African-American sitting side by side knowing that one of them can be elected President of the United States later this year.