Friday, March 28, 2008

We're Finally Getting To The Good Part

I was beginning to think that we were never going to get to the point in the presidential campaign at which the candidates were going to talk about their plans and proposals for the country in detail and at which the press was actually going to report on those plans and proposals in an intelligent way. I feared that the months of personal sniping and whining were going to extend into August, and the front pages of our newspapers were going to be filled with that sniping and whining. Well, we've finally reached the stage where the real campaign has started and the press is finally beginning to report on it. Oh, there are still stories about whether Sen. Obama should have left his church and whether Sen. Clinton's faulty memory about sniper fire was a deliberate bald-faced lie, but an article in today's Los Angeles Times actually dealt with the three candidates' economic proposals and compared them in a fairly rational way.

The deteriorating economy took center stage in the presidential election Thursday as Democrat Barack Obama called for tighter regulation of financial markets and rival Hillary Rodham Clinton proposed more retraining for displaced workers, creating a sharp contrast with Republican John McCain over how much the government should intervene.

The economy has been the No. 1 issue for voters for months, but the candidates have embraced the issue more slowly. This week, however, all three gave major addresses that added significant detail to their prescriptions for the ailing economy.

Obama called Thursday for an overhaul of the nation's regulatory system, immediate relief for homeowners caught in the sub-prime mortgage crisis and a $30-billion economic stimulus package. Clinton, who had proposed a $30-billion fund to help prevent foreclosures a week ago, offered a new proposal to spend $12.5 billion on job-training programs.

McCain emphasized Thursday that he thought any federal aid should be limited to "deserving American families" who were "in danger of not realizing the American dream."

I suspect that all three candidates have been speaking to the issues all along, albeit in not very comprehensive ways, but you'd never know it from the press coverage. And that's the problem. The campaigns have essentially been press-directed, rather than the coverage being driven by the campaigns.

While the constant presence of Sen. Lieberman (I-Connecticut) at Sen. McCain's side is interesting, it doesn't say much about what Mr. McCain believes is the best way to pull the country out of its economic nose-dive. And the coverage for the Dems is much worse. I don't find Rev. Wright's prophetic utterances all that offensive, and I don't see what they have to do with Sen. Obama's foreign policy views. Sen. Hillary Clinton is the candidate, not her charming, ex-President husband, and what she has to say about health care access is ultimately more important than what he has to say about Sen. McCain's friendship with his wife.

Even I am not so naive as to believe that the press has finally turned the corner, but at least this article does give me hope that a real campaign of ideas is possible. More coverage in this vein would be welcome, and one way to get that coverage is for the candidates to continue to speak to the issues in ways that show the American electorate (and the rest of the world) just what is at stake.

May it be so.



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