Friday, March 23, 2012

The Etch-A-Sketch Candidate

There is something to be said about the vicissitudes of Presidential campaigns.  Even though the current one has seen obscene gobs of money spewed forth by Super Pacs to merely denigrate the opposing side, it has proved helpful in getting to the heart of the matter by showing us the true character of the current would be Republican nominees.  After umpteen debates and dozens of “misquoted, misstatements”, a pattern is clearly visible.  The American people are able to see through the smoke screens conjured up by the political consultants, and view the candidates for who they really are. It is not a pretty picture.
     Mitt Romney, a/k/a the “etch- a- sketch” flip flopper , has been done in for the general election by his own General, top campaign aide  Eric Fehrnstrom,  who compared the primary positions Romney has had to take to the positions he will need to pivot to in the general election to an “etch a sketch” process. He said “You can kind of shake it up and we start all over again!” The result? The red bordered metallic erasable tablet manufacturer's stock shot up 200%, while Romney's stock as a credible candidate plummeted.  Mitt Romney has taken flip flopping and etch- a -sketchery to new heights!
     His Republican primary opponent Rick Santorum, whose own views on such issues as abortion, contraception, and gay marriage are etched instead in stone tablets handed down to him on some remote Pennsylvania mountain,  has now said that he would even prefer a continuation of the Obama Presidency to having the “Etch-a- Sketch Presidency” of Mitt Romney. 
     Wow! Did he really say that? Has it come to this? If the Romney train is finally leaving the station on the tracks of inevitably, who will be at the campaign's final destination to greet him when and if it arrives?  If not  Santorum, will it be just Jeb Bush?
     Perhaps the only crowd to greet him will  be the enthusiastic stock holders of the Etch- a- Sketch company.  There are pitifully few others to cheer him on,  excepting the most avid Obama haters. These are the folks who would conceivably back Lucifer himself, were he to chastise, cajole and challenge Obama in a red meat sort of way.  But wait, their candidate would be the cheerful Mr. Newt Gingrich.., and his train seems to have left the tracks somewhere west of Georgia.  So even they might not show up at the end of the tracks.
      Suffice it to say that Washington’s Union Station will be mostly empty  on the day Romney arrives as the eventual Republican nominee. Why?  Because he has continually traded principle for political pivoting,  consistency for chicanery and bald faced about facery for the truth. No amount of Super Pac money will ever be able to hide the two , three, or four faces of Romney that the campaign has allowed us to see.  He huffed and he puffed and he blew his own house down.  There is no putting this Humpty Dumpty back together again. The jig is up.
    In fact, maybe we should just  move up the date of the Presidential campaign to September,  and get the agony over with.  Why spend umpteen millions more on negative ads between now and November, when the choice will be clear by the end of August.  Maybe September would be a good time to put aside the partisan divide, and start to rebuild our national consensus.  Of course, that can’t happen, but at least we know that by the time the November election does come, we can choose to spring forward, not fall back.  It will seem good to have it all over, and have a real chance to begin to put the country back together, again.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Silence is deafening!


The silence is deafening. The silence of the Republican Presidential candidates in the face of Rush Limbaugh's latest misanthropic diatribe about contraception and a Georgetown female law student's testimony before Congress . Rush Limbaugh labeled her a "slut' for wanting free contraceptive coverage. According to Limbaugh, " if she wants to get paid for having sex she is a prostitute", and she should videotape and share her sexcapades so Rush and his cigar chomping confreres could at least watch.

What? Did he actually say that on a nationally syndicated radio show that is on the public airwaves? That is pretty creepy, not to mention, over the top. The last time this kind of thing happened it was " Imus in the Morrning" who became a casualty of his own loose lips which sunk his broadcasting ship. Talking about "Nappy hoes" with kinky hair was considered beyond the pale, and Don Imus had to go. So does Rush.

There was a time when it was unthinkable that a radio personality could engage in such vituperative doggerel and get away with it. Pre 1987, back in the "Happy Days" of 1947-1987 when the FCC's Fairness Doctrine existed, such conduct would have been unthinkable. With all the retro like rhetoric coming from the Republican Presidential candidates about family values and the good old days, nary a one has advocated a return to the Fairness Doctrine. That was the national policy which required broadcast stations to balance their political commentary by offering responsible spokesmen for opposite points of view to be given airways access to counter and/or balance comments that could be viewed as one sided. That policy is no more. It was done in by Ronald Regan and his political minions , and it ushered in the likes of Don Imus and Rush Limbaugh's and Michael Savage and Keith Olberman. Some say the quality of our political dialogue went to hell in a hand basket with the repeal of the FCC's Fairness Doctrine. It has given license to political debate which is not fact centered or civil, but comes down to a "Your mother wears combat boots" approach.

It was the Danish political philosopher Soren Kierkegaard who said. "If you label me, then you can dismiss me". If you're not a "ditto head" or a "Great American", it is Limbaugh or Hannity who controls the kill switch on the microphone, not some dispassionate moderator. Daytime talk radio has become a cesspool of political invective, political labeling, and political demagoguery of unparalleled proportion. If ever there were an argument to be made about restoring civility in our political dialogue, and a return to the Doctrine which required fairness and balance on the public airwaves, this is it.

I am a firm believer in Free Speech and the First Amendment rights of all citizens, but as the courts have long held, there can and should be time manner and place restrictions in the exercise of that freedom. You can't yell fire in a crowded theatre, and your ought not be able to defame other citizens caustically and with impunity on the public airwaves. Such
drivel may be suitable for Internet podcasts, but not for the public airwaves.

When I was a young man, I was a disc jockey on a local radio station. One day I had to fill in as moderator of a local talk show called " Open Mike". I will never forget the owner of the station, Cliff Harris, coming into the control room flailing his arms at me and mouthing for me to " go to a commercial" while I was on air. I did, and he laid me out in lavender for giving my opinion on a subject to a caller. The hot controversy at the time was whether the city should adopt a dog leash law, and I had my opinions on the subject. So did the caller with whom I was disagreeing on the air. He said " you are the moderator...moderator.. Do you understand me? Your opinion does not matter, it is the public opinion that does!" I will never forget the fire in his eyes and his tone of voice in correcting my errant ways. Too bad Cliff Harris isn't still around to do the same thing to Rush Limbaugh today! He certainly deserves a comeuppance for his over the top remarks. Can you step up to the plate and call out the bully 'Messrs. Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and Paul? Who will be the first to say to him as Joseph Welch did to Senator Joe Mc Carthy , " Enough! At long last, have you no decency , sir?" We are all waiting and watching.