Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Shallow, but so what?

CNN's Jack Cafferty opines correctly that the Republican nominee has the intellectual depth of a soapdish, or at best, George W. Bush. A decent point:

Where are John McCain's writings exploring the vexing moral issues of our time? Where are his position papers setting forth his careful consideration of foreign policy, the welfare state, education, America's moral responsibility in the world, etc., etc., etc.?

John McCain graduated 894th in a class of 899 at the Naval Academy at Annapolis. His father and grandfather were four star admirals in the Navy. Some have suggested that might have played a role in McCain being admitted. His academic record was awful. And it shows over and over again whenever McCain is called upon to think on his feet.

You will read variations on this theme all over the internet (including on this blog). You rarely see this commentary in the broadcast media. You won't hear from Barack Obama. Why is that? Why is it anathema to point out that one's opponent is an intellectual lightweight? How, at 71 years of age, does a presidential candidate get to skate by without so much as a single publicly expressed moment of introspection?

I'll tell you how: since the old media is dumbed down to the lowest common denominator -- i.e., the average, numbed out American more concerned about sports scores than the value of the dollar against the euro -- the old media cannot afford to step over that line. Further, if a candidate like Obama, or one of his surrogates, made such a suggestion about McCain's shallowness, you would see the pundits and anchors falling all over themselves to paint Obama as an elitist (again) for denigrating his opponent's shallow intellect relative to his own, which is dizzying.

Further, there is a certain appeal to short answers. One of the most effective things Bush ever said in eight years was uttered during the 2004 campaign: "You may not always agree with me, but you always know where I stand." Let's assume that Bush was being sincere, which I know is a stretch. I'll admit that sometimes it's refreshing when someone stands by his convictions come hell or high water. I think the most successful people in life are single-minded about their purpose in life. The real trouble comes when one says one thing but means another, of course. Also, to some untrained ears, a nuanced approach can sometimes come off as wishy-washy.

This is essentially why McCan't got rousing cheers at Saddleback last weekend. The simpletons present in that church could not grasp that there were complex shades of gray in every question posed by "Pastor Rick," and when Obama answered carefully and thoughtfully, it came off like that guy in Bible study 10 years ago who challenged conventional wisdom and caused the others to look at each with furtive glances as they shared secret thoughts about the non-believer in their midst. On the other hand, McCan't, unable to tackle such subtleties, fell back on stump speech rhetoric and black-and-white answers, which appeals to these people of blind, unbending faith.

Obama's speechwriters can and should get blunt for the stadium speech in Denver. When 50,000 people are listening, best to be concise. And, since this is the start of a war for the presidency, pull out that goddamned sword!

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