We must feel entertained by it. All this "stuff" wouldn't fill the cable TV news time if we weren't. Whole shows like the Heilemann/Halperin thing are built on this apparent obsession. We watch the candidates examine their navels. We watch the talking heads examine their navels. Candidates set up conflict to get attention. The candidates salivate over the attention, but why would any sensible individual want to be drawn into the vortex of all this? It seems rather a perversion or evidence of dysfunction.
We spent months going through this, leading up to the elections of 2000 and 2004. We allowed the conservative media to get into our heads too much. A particular strain of conservatism erupted that attacked its perceived adversaries as a rabid dog would. We slowly acquiesced to all that and gave the nod, narrowly, to a man from a political dynasty - i.e. he "knew the racket" - who made the worst foreign policy decision in the history of our nation: the invasion of Iraq.
Maybe George W. Bush just rubber-stamped the breathless advocacy of a possibly unstable Dick Cheney. Whatever, we invaded Iraq and destabilized that whole region, not realizing that those people are not like us, and that a dose of dictatorial rule is a necessary part. Iraq was led by a secular "strongman." He would want no part of the Islamic extremists. He had to be brutal at times because brutality is weaved into that culture, unfortunately. It's not the way we choose to live.
Bush wanted to spread our ideals around the world. It's not practicable. So, when you include the cost of treating all the wounded soldiers, we spent something like $6 trillion on the folly of the Iraq invasion. Much worse was the profound sadness brought to so many families including some in West Central Minnesota.
My point is that the American people went through so many months following media coverage of the presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2004. We had the luxury of being able to over-analyze the candidates and ideas. But did we really weigh the ideas or rhetoric properly? Or, were we led along by a cabal of conservative-minded people in the media, people who were really just surrogates for puppet-masters in the big money world: Wall Street etc.
Those surrogates know there is all sorts of code language they can utilize to put "liberals" and Democrats on the defensive. They use the frontier principle of self-reliance. Do you want government to take over health care? Well, it seems to work for Medicare. Medicare and Social Security are examples of socialism. So are the ample subsidies for new sports stadiums.
Yet the conservatives create the boogeyman called "liberals" who simply wish to see government as an agent making our lives a little easier and giving us some decent security, beyond what pure "private enterprise" can deliver. Yet we are encouraged to extol "private enterprise." "Let's privatize the V.A. system."
Conservatives try to nudge everything toward privatization. It seems consistent with that frontier ethic of "self reliance." A lot of conservatives don't even believe what they're saying - they're just trying to gain standing in what David Frum calls the "conservative entertainment complex."
In this age of advanced medicine, which is a real blessing, we cannot pull our own weight with our own resources. You absolutely must realize about conservatives that their over-arching goal is to discourage people from liking government. At the same time they prop up those sports team owners. They're willing to shrug at the cost of $6 trillion for the Iraq adventure, simply because we were fighting some apparently unsavory people. "We're fighting to keep us safe." Hey, we can never be totally safe. We try to negotiate to smooth over rough spots around the world - consider the recent deal with Iran that conservatives are flailing their hands about.
What are we supposed to do? Comedian Dick Shawn joked about how some politicians wanted to see a "United World. . .of America" (laughter). Conservatives are the first to decry the idea of "world government." They decry the United Nations. And yet one of their flock, George W. Bush, behaved like he wanted to see the whole world reflect America, to where Norman Rockwell's paintings would have applicability everywhere.
Joe Scarborough has repeatedly assailed Bush's thinking on this. Scarborough is a conservative and a Republican.
So, how to explain or rationalize the system where we spend months being drenched in political campaign news, as if we're going to make such a well-thought-out decision, and then we elect Bush who crashes our American resources like a bull in a China shop, because he never had to pull himself up by his bootstraps, because he was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and became a mere puppet for other well-placed figures? How did this happen?
It's as if Bush was elected and then said to us all, like "Dr. Evil" to his son in one of the Austin Powers movies: "Let Daddy do his work." Dr. Evil was about to let one of his minion/guards lead Powers away to be detained, and we all know the hero would escape. The son, "Scott," pleaded the obvious to Dr. Evil, whereupon Dr. Evil retorted "Let Daddy do his work." We as a nation are supposed to go through certain motions, I guess. We did it with the Viet Nam war.
"Let Daddy do his work." How can we be so misguided? How can we be such lemmings?
The media encouraged such a buildup to the Iowa caucuses, with Joe Scarborough camping out and setting up shop at the "Java Joe's" restaurant etc. After all that, we got headlines trumpeting how Mitt Romney was the winner over Rick Santorum, albeit narrowly. Everyone scrambled to interpret those results. But we later found out that Santorum was actually the winner. How would things have changed if the results had been reported accurately? No way would Santorum, the man who wants to take all pornography off the Internet, have gotten the nomination. But Romney might have been weakened.
Our story of pratfalls doesn't end there. It turned out that Ron Paul actually got the most delegates from Iowa. I tell you, if a group of elementary school students were this inept doing a school project, they would all get a failing grade. And yet we allow these people to guide us through the process of determining a major party nominee. Sheesh.
Those Iowa pols would probably say "Let Daddy do his work." Meanwhile the media people cash their paychecks. The "conservative entertainment complex" is truly entertainment, though not to me. We're wising up, it seems, but too slowly.
Ah Bartleby, ah humanity!