Everything, Plus The Kitchen Sink

Republican candidate for governor Arnold Schwarzenegger answers questions from the media at a hotel in San Francisco, Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2003.
A little California dreaming.

Arnold said he expected them to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him, but when they dredged up those groping stories and the compliments he apparently once made about Hitler's public speaking skills, I think I may have seen the kitchen sink go flying by, too.

Someone asked me, `Why does the media put this stuff out? Is it really fair?' Hard to say, but hard to avoid when campaigns come down to no more than which candidate is the most famous.

There was a time when politicians started at the local level, and if there were skeletons, they came out then. Local leaders didn't want them to embarrass the party, told the flawed candidates to find other work, and that was usually the end of it. But these days, candidates no longer need the support of local bosses, nor do campaigns have to be about much more than who can get on television.

To become a candidate anymore requires no more than money or celebrity and the will to use them. That means a candidate can reach the top levels of politics with no real scrutiny. But that can't last for an entire campaign, even a short one.

A campaign has to be about something, and candidates will always point reporters to skeletons in the other guy's background and, fairly or unfairly, some of that will come out. In the past, it happened at the beginning of a campaign; now it comes at the end. And it can get nasty.

But don't blame this one on the media. The fault here is not in how campaigns are covered. It's about what we have allowed modern politics to become.

By Bob Schieffer