It continues to degenerate, this campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain, not just because of the lies they tell about each other, but because the press can’t always distinguish between a lie and the truth, because too many commentators have no grasp of statistics, because any number of real issues are inadequately addressed and because know-nothing, Hollywood celebrities actually get listened to.
An example of show biz on the political march was John McCain’s recent appearance on "The View," when he said he believes in strict interpretation of the Constitution, and Whoopi Goldberg let him know she was having none of that.
"Should I worry about being a slave, being returned to slavery?" she asked.
Well, she had a point, an overly apologetic John McCain responded, when he should instead have played sixth-grade teacher, carefully explaining that the original Constitution did accommodate slavery, but then there came the Civil War and the 13th Amendment that outlawed the practice.
When he calls for strict interpretation, he could have continued, he naturally means to include strict interpretation of the amendments that constitute a substantial portion of the document and were put in place through procedures that it spells out. The problem, he should once more have emphasized, is a Supreme Court that too often has ignored the plain meaning of constitutional language, instead setting itself up as a kind of oligarchy free from irritating rule of law.
The lecture would no doubt have been wasted on the comedienne, but McCain could have done something else to avoid the embarrassment of still other questions and accusations that were comparably uninformed, and that is stay off the silly program in the first place. As one advantage, he would not have had to put up with Joy Behar, who said he was lying in his TV ad about Obama’s support as a state senator for broad sex education in Illinois kindergartens.
To be fair to her, she thinks the ad is false because mass media have told her so. The take is that the only thing the bill would have allowed for children that young was warnings about sexual predators. But Byron York of the National Review has actually read the bill and found this passage: "Each class or course in comprehensive sex education in any of grades K through 12 shall include instruction on the prevention of sexually transmitted infections, including the prevention, transmission and spread of HIV."
The bill also talks about the education being "age appropriate" and has passages about sexual touching, but a chief intent was clearly to teach even pre-adolescent children about venereal disease, and if Obama didn’t know this, he should have.
McCain’s ads have certainly lied, however, as in their descriptions of Obama’s record and proposals on taxes, just as Obama has lied about McCain, distorting a joke about the middle class being millionaires and a remark about Iraq as if McCain were saying he was prepared for a war of 100 years.
Obama’s own ad about lobbyists serving the McCain campaign is among those treading on dangerous ground, seeing as how one of his economic advisers is Franklin Raines, a former CEO of Fannie Mae who returned millions of dollars in bonus money after charges the bonuses were based on phony calculations.
There are real issues in this campaign, some of which don’t get talked about much, such as the coming entitlements crisis, and some of which get addressed in ludicrous terms, such as the energy crisis and Obama saying he can make us energy independent in 10 years. That’s an impossibility short of miracle discoveries no one can now foresee.
It would help if there were fewer commentators of Goldberg’s mentality, misconstruing statistics in such a way as to make it sound as if no one is getting richer in America besides those already rich, leaving out unwed motherhood and immigration as major factors in poverty numbers, not grasping who pays the most taxes in this country (upper income earners) and pretending that CEO salaries are economically significant.
Is the Sarah Palin hysteria finally spent? I hope so. That would at least be a first step to getting us back to a discussion affording more possibility of a rational decision by the electorate in November.
(Jay Ambrose, formerly Washington director of editorial policy for Scripps Howard newspapers and the editor of dailies in El Paso, Texas, and Denver, is a columnist living in Colorado. He can be reached at SpeaktoJay(at)aol.com.)