The Unbearable Triteness of Being (Cable News Edition)
September 17, 2008
Alternate title: If Chris Matthews’ head explodes in the woods and nobody pays attention, does it make a sound?
The Republican ticket seems to have adopted a post-press approach to campaigning in which the candidates simply don’t care what the press does or says about their honesty. More to the point, the candidates don’t think it will matter on Election Day.
They may be right. And that’s the media’s fault. They’ve reported their way right into the margins. Submerged in trivia and tactics for the past 18 months, the press, I think, has damaged its ability — its authority — to referee the campaign.
Proof? Let’s go back to the pissed-off Matthews for a perfect example. Raise your hand if, in the past six months, you’ve seen an entire episode of Hardball devoted to discussing our “troubled economy,” the sad state of America’s transportation infrastructure, the failings of our educational system, the never-ending war in Iraq, or the “uncertain American economic future.”
Matthews claimed those are the key issues that face our country and, by implication, are what are important to this campaign. Yet Matthews hosts a cable news program that pretty much refuses to discuss those issues.
Remember, Matthews is part of the same Beltway press crowd that told news consumers Hillary Clinton’s laugh was extremely important and needed to be analyzed for clues about her true character, that John Edwards’ haircuts raised serious doubts about the man’s candidacy, and that Barack Obama’s bowling score spelled trouble on the campaign trail.
And it wasn’t that long ago that the campaign press stressed how important it was that John Kerry windsurfed and that Al Gore spent time as a politician’s kid growing up in a Washington, D.C., hotel. These were issues of paramount concern for the media.
I think when journalists wallow in that nonsense for so long and pretend it’s newsworthy and important, the coverage of a truly important story (e.g. what the media have now identified as the Republican candidate for president trying to lie his way into the White House) comes across as just another trivial pursuit. For news consumers, it comes across as just more forced cable chatter because there’s no seriousness left in the entire endeavor.
That’s all well and good, Mr. Boehlert, but it’s time you came clean on this important question: Which candidate would you rather have a beer with?