What follows will be a series of re-posts from my Slate alias, HopefulCynic. I will try and contextualize the missives, as some are in response to articles on Slate or other writers. But, on the other hand, I'm in a hurry to get out of here, so context may have to be back-added later for some. Tchau.
(in response to the continuing feature in Slate analyzing Bush & Kerry campaign adds)
Hey, call me crazy, but isn't this the same crap all real thinkers about politics decry from the media every election -- an analysis of the process and no analysis of the substance?
The deconstruction of the ad campaign was amusing at first. But now, looking at two men with great analytical talents, I'm going "who cares whether John Kerry's commercial "optimist" makes him seem "optimistic" because "optimistic" candidates usually win under a hackneyed cliche?
I think it's telling the cliche is mentioned, partially discredited, and then the conversation continues as if whether or not this commercial works as a play towards that cliche. Are you kidding me?
I don't know why Slate has chosen to follow the time-honored process of form over substance; maybe it's because that's all "the media" knows how to do. Or maybe it's the ratings thing. I don't know.
What I also don't know, but would like to: we've heard Bush talk about Kerry's record, and Kerry talk somewhat about Kerry's record. How about an analysis of Kerry's record, unrelated to the claims of either party? How about a 3rd party review of what he's voted for, why, and what patterns there were? How did the bills work out? How has he campaigned in the past? Has he followed through on his promises (or grading on a curve, has he followed through on campaign promises more often than others?). How has his rhetoric changed over the years; who has funded him, how does that compare to his votes? How come the CPI book The Buying of the American Presidency [www.publicintegrity.org] started a whole series of indepth discussions in the media? Sure, "corporate funding" as a story comes and goes, but how about instead of keeping tab on Kerry's rhetoric, we keep tab on who's given how much, in the past and present, and how that lines up with his votes? Is it significant to no one in the media but the Daily Show and Bill Moyers that Charles Lewis claims to have confirmed the intuitive truism that politicians will be more responsive to those that have given them more money?Does it matter nothing to our system, or matter less than commercials, that tit-for-tat seems to be the norm?
I don't think this can be excused with "there's too little to follow up on or keep a story running", or "people aren't interested." If Saletan and Weisberg are truly diligent journalists, and deserving the higher esteem I give to Slate than "mainstream" news, why do I have to see the same 3-ring circus in Slate? I get more information about the history, content, and actual operation of our government in the Fray -- and as much as that's a compliment to Fraysters, it speaks very poorly for Slate.
How much analysis does Kaus give us that's not related to image and "gotcha"? When's the last time he laid out a case for one of his positions *not* related to likeability instead of only tearing down pols? As important as humbling the mighty is, I'd like to see a cogent argument somewhere, not just tidbits of what memes are going around about Kerry's charm or lack thereof.
Instead of "Kerry's Curlicues", how about "Kerry's past terms in government, explained?" How about an exegesis of the real process of legislation? Why is Dahlia Lithwick [slate.msn.com] the only journalist on Slate talking about the fact that the Bush administration may have perjured itself?
What about the Administration's long-standing order, issued by memo and reported in Slate years ago, to deny FOIA requests whenever possible more of an issue rather than a one-shot? We've armchair quarterbacked Iraq into the ground from Slate, but we rarely hear of the estimated >11,000 civilian casualties there [www.iraqbodycount.net]? How does that play into a "just war"?
The Middle East is tricky situation. But Bush has talked a lot and little has happened. What are the minutiae of what's been said and done behind doors? Why no examination of the degree to which the Israeli economy is dependent on US funding, or examination of the facts-on-the-ground in Palestine -- we've heard Arafat's Fatah has "ties" to terrorist groups, but that's all we've heard for years. What ties? Has he ordered anything? How do other Palestinians feel about him?
How pertinent is it in Iraq that a majority wants us to leave? How can we take "sovereignty" with any seriousness when Iraq's "sovereign government" appears to be unswayed by the opinion of 57% of its constituency [www.usatoday.com], which wants the "allied" forces gone immediately? Beyond the "selling out" of the Kurds, how are things there? What is the history of the region? How might a pullout work? Where's the debate even of a pullout in Slate? Only this piece [slate.msn.com] even jokes about it.
How do the claims made in the pile of books about the Bush Admin line up? House of Bush, House of Saud, Plan of Attack, etc etc... We get synopses, but do the claims of the disparate elements line up? Do they not? What do they say, when taken together, about the Administration? Are they bunk? Do they not add up? If they do, why isn't this a major theme of the media -- if there really is 6-20 books worth of problems with the Bush Administration, isn't that more important than what abstractions he uses in his next press conference and what that says about his campaign strategy?
No doubt not all of these suggestions would make a good story. But any one of them would damned sure be more enlightening than another installment of "Who Cares What They Do, This is What They Say".
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