BOSTON (CBS) - With all of the whining by pundits about the lackluster slate of candidates for the presidency in 2016, I believe some fact checking is in order. Historically, political incivility is nothing new. In fact, our forefathers, would they be brought back to life under their tri-cornered hats today, might scoff at the relatively genteel nature of our political process today. Read up on the Adams/Jefferson knockdown, drag out battles during the early days of the republic, or how vicious his opponents as well as the press were towards Abraham Lincoln, often depicting him in cartoons of the day as that "hairy, uneducated ape." It's highly unlikely old Honest Abe would garner much traction in our modern system. His lanky frame, scruffy beard and high pitched nasal twang might not play too well on television. He'd be a prime candidate for TMZ coverage, as would the ever interesting Mary Todd Lincoln.
Despite the headline grabbing antics of "The Donald" or the overly packaged patter of Madame Secretary Hillary, there is still a fair amount of meat on the bone as far as issues are concerned. How do I ascertain that? You'll love this one, because it's so obvious. I read stuff. The candidates' stuff. Position papers, votes they've taken, proposals they support. It's all there at the touch of a button at each and every candidate's web site. Being informed is the best revenge. The sad truth is that many of our citizens are so busy working long hours to keep the kids fed that they just don't have the time to pay attention to a process that starts a year too early.
Best prep for the coming presidential run in 2016 then? I kindly recommend a few key books such as "The Making of the President," (a series of books) by historian Theodore White or "Team of Rivals," the riveting story of the Lincoln administration, by Doris Kearns Goodwin. There are many more books to savor by some very smart writers, but the important point here is this – we owe it to ourselves to read, explore and parse as much as possible. We should all take a bit of time to move past the skewed opinions of partisans and pundits, to take in the full range of objective and historical material available.
Do I once again sound like an old coot, doing my own whining about our politics? Guilty as charged. I know that it is much more satisfying to cast a vote that matters. At least to me.
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