This story was written by Jason Smathers, Badger Herald
All the phrases politicians, salesmen and religious leaders use seemwasted to me. President Kennedy pleading for Americans to Ask what youcan do for your country, holds no more weight to me than our fakepresident from 24 asking, Are you in good hands?
But eventhose who are usually immune to the coiffed, smooth-talking politicianshave reached a level of hysteria reserved for music superstars andappearances of Jesus Christ in a coffee stain. All because of BarackObama.
Average citizens can be forgiven. The last eight yearshave forced Americans to buckle down under fear of terrorism and anuncertain future. For the good of the nation, they agreed to a paththat left them with recession, foreign policy traps and a general dropin national morale. So over-the-top idealism is something that theaverage American wants to hang on to.
The media has less of anexcuse. Perhaps years of cynical punditry has left commentators parchedand in need of a drink of the Kool-Aid they always criticized. However,to see the entire MSNBC staff (save for increasingly cranky JoeScarborough), CNN analysts and even the occasional Fox News reportertreat Barack Obamas ascendancy as a given is almost more disappointingthan their journalistic atrophy before the invasion of Iraq.
Soto see the endorsements pouring in from editorial boards across thecountry even the Chicago Tribune, which has never endorsed aDemocratic nominee for office is not surprising.
But evenwith the enthusiasm over the historic nature of his candidacy, I wouldexpect the explanations of these newspapers to be tempered with somesemblance of rationality in their support of one of the mostinexperienced candidates since well, the last president.
Unfortunately,that hasnt been the case. While The Capital Times chastised theirolder brothers at the Wisconsin State Journal for even whispering thename McCain in the same sentence as honorable, they should havefocused on something else: the Journals complete neglect of any worthyanalysis or intellectual honesty.
There is not a single mentionof policy. The only mention of any of the challenges facing the countrycome in vague platitudes that Obama himself could include in stumpspeeches: American must not decline. America must remain a beacon offreedom, democracy, innovation and prosperity.
Oh, they havespecific concerns: Obama needs to tackle wasteful spending. Obama needsto reject extremist influence. Obama needs to tackle entitlementprograms. But nowhere do they make clear that Obama would actually doany of these things. Only that he inspires the hope that he could.
Make no mistake, this is an endorsement precipitated on dreams of what could be, encapsulated in a man.
Buttheyre not the only guilty ones. While The Chicago Tribune made a boldmove in endorsing Obama, they make only three points: We can trustObama because weve seen him in action in our own state (although, theycertainly didnt agree with him most of the time), we dont thinkMcCain can wrangle his party out of fiscal irresponsibility and whileObamas economic plan disappoints us, he at least did some good thingsfor ethics reform and charter schools. Vote for him.
While itsencouraging to see swing state newspapers like the Akron Beacon Journaluse issues like Obamas economic plan to justify his election, the vastmajority of the endorsements use the same logic: He has thevision/drive/inspiration to change this country.
Perhaps hedoes, but hope does not save a country from tightrope walks overforeign policy quagmires. Inspiration doesnt stave off economiccrises. Making the American people feel better about themselves andcountry only provides relief until the next catastrophe strikes.
Athe editorial above shows, this paper has examined the issues anddecided that while Obama is disappointing on a few issues, his pledgeto change the course of foreign policy toward diplomacy, provide healthcare where the free-market has consistently failed and provide areasoned and nuanced system of relief and capital infusion into oureconomy is what sells us.
Not his messianic status. After all,with the messiah comes the apocalypse. And thats not a future weshould even begin to consider.
So, to the rest of the media:push the cultural implications aside and examine the policy points.Dont be afraid to be a wonk; it should be your job. And if yourexplanations prove true in a decade, then we can celebrate a rebirth.But lets not condemn that possibility by riding a wave of emotion intoa presidency. After all, it takes more than just the captain to steerthe ship away from the rocks.