Thursday, May 8, 2008

The campaign that never ends

Yeesh. Cheerful thought of the day: Can you believe it's still six months until the November presidential election?

Photobucket...I've kept my yap shut about the primaries for a while now as, despite what the chattering pundits have been telling us, there really hasn't been much to say. In my eyes, Barack Obama basically won the race when he won Virginia back in February. Since then, it's been a whole lot of sound and noise about a result that was barely in doubt. Hillary Clinton is far too flawed and reviled a candidate to ever win the White House. Too much baggage despite her good intentions. Honestly, when the stupid stuff a guy's pastor has said becomes a major issue, you know they're reaching for ammo against a very good candidate. What's next -- Obama's dentist had a DUI?

And frankly, while no politician is ever going to be perfect, Hillary Clinton lost me for good the minute she accepted right-wing assassin Richard Mellon Scaife's endorsement of her in Pennsyvlania. Scaife is one of the major men behind the hunting of Bill Clinton for everything from Whitewater to Paula Jones, and a prime mover behind the impeachment. And then he endorsed Hillary over Obama in his newspaper. For Hillary not to basically stand up and tell him to stick his endorsement where the sun don't shine shows a lack of courage and principle on her part. Instead, she embraced it. Yeah, politics, strange bedfollows, et cetera, but y'know, I'd have more respect for her if she had refused it, or say, forcefully repudiated the idiots out there who still say Obama's a Muslim. I feel like she'll do anything to win, from a pandering, disavowed gas tax holiday to using tactics Karl Rove would love to go after Obama.

For a little while there back in January/February, I was actually really pleased with press coverage of the campaign, when there were a dozen or so viable candidates running and nobody knew what would happen. Maybe this time we in the media would live up to the job, rather than lower down to it. But once it settled into an Obama/Clinton/McCain round robin, we pretty much gave up on substance and settled for trivia and personality coverage – which has its place, but not dominating endless news cycle after news cycle like it has. When was the last time we saw a series of stories on the candidates and the issues?

Despite what you've read, disputed primary seasons are nothing new. Parties used to battle "all the way to the convention" quite often, even as recently as Carter/Kennedy in 1980 and Reagan/Ford in 1976. The last 20 years or so, it's been more of a coronation than a fight for most nominees after the first few weeks. But what's new is the never-ending news cycle, 24 hours a day of cable news and infinite terrabytes of Internet to fill. Newsmakers hate, hate dead air and blank copy, so we've had endless somersaults of logic and hyperbole trying to fill the air in a period of the campaign which, when you get down to it, hasn't really been all that much hard news.

Anyway. Clinton is finished, whether she accepts it with grace or with a gasping death rattle – there is no way for her to win without using every dirty trick and procedural twist in the book. Deep down she knows it – look at the footage of her after the win-that-was-really-a-loss in Indiana. She gave Obama a hell of a fight, but in the end his message - solipitisic though some might find it - meant more than hers. Now it's on to November, and maybe the press corps can take a wee break after Clinton makes her final speech.

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