Saturday, May 5, 2007

Why are we in Iraq?

Our dysfunctional national media are a large part of the reason. The weekly duo of Mark Shields (as the liberal) and David Brooks (as the conservative) illustrated that on the PBS Newshour - the cream of "quality" TV - on Friday in discussing the Republican Presidential candidates debate. Here's how the duo summarized the debate (Analysts Discuss GOP Debate, War Funding Bill Veto 05/04/07):

The candidates talked about Reagan because the two Bushes aren't thought of favorably; the candidates need to be "agents of changes"; Reagan's time was different from ours, so they shouldn't talk about Reagan so much; the Republican candidates didn't talk about Bush; Mark's "old friend John McCain" was too hyper; but McCain had a good night; so did Romney, who's handsome and sounded optimistic; McCain sounded grumpy, angry, overprepared; McCain was "not who he was" (Brooks); Mike Hucklebee sounded "extremely personable" and was "a relaxed and warm presence", even "authentic" and "likeable"; Romney finessed a question on abortion well; Giuliani was clumsy on Roe v. Wade; he's not afraid of terrorism or crime; it's a better set of candidates than they appeared; Tommy Thompson didn't hear a question and "wasn't forceful"; McCain is "a serious statesman"; Romney is "a fantastic businessman"; nobody "looked great" or "leapt forward"; the Party is "looking for Reagan"; Republicans "know they are in trouble for 2008"; Giuliani didn't play well and wasn't "comfortable" in the debate format; and, of course, McCain's the Maverick!

The words "Iraq", "Iran", "torture", "US attorneys" did not appear in their discussion on the Republican candidates debate. There's nothing wrong in looking at the candidates' presentation techniques. But abortion was the only issue the two of them discussed even in passing in the context of reviewing the debate until the passage I quote below, though Shields did mention that the candidates didn't want to talk about No Child Left Behind or Bush's tax cuts. And even their discussion of abortion was on Romney's and Giuliani's rhetorical performances.

But Shields, the liberal of the pair, gushed about Saint McCain:

I think McCain has had the best couple of weeks of this campaign. I think he's got the maverick - on immigration last night, he was the truth-teller. I mean, he knew it wasn't popular in that crowd. He knows it isn't popular with Republicans. It's the third most frequently mentioned issue among Republican voters, is immigration. Democratic voters don't mention it. It is a big, divisive issue, and he's on the wrong side, by most of their lights, but he made his case, I thought, quite forthrightly. (my emphasis)
The Maverick dissembles and "flip-flops" all over the map. But he's still the Straight Shooter. The Truth Teller. Go figure. Shield's phrase "he's got the maverick" was presumably supposed to be "he's got the maverick position" or some such. But for our press corps, "he's got the maverick" is probably the right phrase. Because for our press corps, McCain is always the Maverick. Even when he's not, he's still "got the maverick".

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