Debate week worries

What Table Talkers are saying about fighting fair, community and how the media let them down.

By Salon Staff
Published October 1, 2004 4:33PM (EDT)

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"BEAT THE PRESS" - Media atrocities PART 5

Dr. Zachary Smith - 05:47 pm Pacific Time - Sep 24, 2004 - #6730 of 7048

This week's Time had a cover about Memogate with the legend "Who Owns the Truth?" They don't get it yet. I don't think any of the press gets it yet, except maybe the part that's bought and paid for.

The truth is now a dead idea. The American public believes, now, those who bother to follow such things, that the truth just doesn't exist.

They know that truth doesn't come from the Right. Like a certain poster around here, that doesn't bother them; they don't hold the Right to any standards except the feel-good one. They never believed that the truth could come from the Left. The Left, after all, when it's not deranged, is full of bleeding-heart, tree-hugging fools.

For a short time in this country, some people believed that truth might come from a free press. For all of its troubles -- the fact that it doesn't attract the brightest bulbs in the string, the fact that it often seems more concerned with its own celebrity than anything else -- there seemed, with Woodward and Bernstein and a few other guys, the possibility that we could look there for the truth.

Memogate killed that. Not by making Dan Rather look like an idiot; most of us already knew that. But by making truth look both impossible and irrelevant.

It's very postmodern. Truth is whatever we want it to be. It's what all your professors told you if you went to college after 1980. Truth is just an instrument of the powerful; that's what your professors told you. Truth is impossible.

So the press didn't really care in 2000. And they don't really care now. They care about "balance," which has nothing to do with truth. The truth is often unfair and unbalanced. They care about "both sides of the story," when sometimes a story only has one side, and sometimes it has a thousand, but very rarely only two. They care about the story, when sometimes there is no story, only facts, which need to be spoken aloud in the bright light of day rather than left to languish in silence and darkness.

They have been castrated and don't understand that yet. They have been rendered irrelevant, and they still think they matter. They have sold their birthright for a mess of pottage, while many of us are still looking for a pot of message.

They have failed the truth, they have failed us, they have failed every American who ever lived and died believing that the truth could set us free. They have failed -- that's the truth -- and they have not understood yet the terrible consequences of their failure.

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Why would you ever ever vote REPUBLICAN

schroeder - 10:35 am Pacific Time - Sep 27, 2004 - #176 of 235

Community: You know what movie always makes me cry? "It's a Wonderful Life." Maybe I've already told this story on this thread. George Bailey sacrifices his hopes and dreams to help the people around him -- to help them buy homes and build a decent life for themselves. And when he's in his darkest hour, his friends, his neighbors, his community, come to his side and help him the way he's always been there for them. And for whatever reason, when his brother makes that toast, "to my big brother George, the richest man in town," it always brings on the waterworks.

That idea, that I always find so moving, is community. That we're all in this together, and that we help our neighbors just because they're our neighbors. If you want to find a core of the liberal philosophy, that'd probably be it. Public education, public health care, Social Security, welfare, putting the tax burden on those who can easiest afford it -- these are all Democratic ideas that the Republicans have tried to destroy, and they're all based on that idea of community: paying school tax even if you don't have kids; paying Social Security while you're young; supporting your local police even if you live in a safe neighborhood; supporting your local firefighters even if your house isn't burning down.

The Republican philosophy, by contrast, isn't about community at all, although they pay a lot of lip service. It's all about naked self-interest. Why should I pay more taxes so somebody else's kids can learn to read? Or so some "welfare queen" can feed her kids? Why should I stop polluting, if it means my profits might drop by 2 percent?

Contempt: The right wing have been pushing this "limousine liberal" thing hard for the last thirty years or so. And it's one of those lies like the welfare queen, that's been repeated so many times that it's accepted as fact. The truth, as far as I can tell, is that people don't often reach out across class lines. So someone like John Kerry probably wouldn't hang out with your average bowling-alley crowd. But would Bush? Would Cheney? When was the last time those two had dinner with someone who wasn't paying $2,000 a plate for the privilege? Contrast that with Clinton campaigning at McDonald's. Find me a Republican politician who has that same genuine affinity for blue-collar America.

But the bottom line is that, even if you believe the Republicans somehow "like" poor people more, (something I've never seen a shred of evidence to support in my life), in policy terms they do everything in their power to hurt the poor, for the benefit of the rich. You seem to have this cliched idea that the Democrats are all a bunch of snooty academics, looking down with scorn at the unwashed masses. Replace "Democrat" with "Republican" and "academic" with "plutocrat", and you might be onto something. But I grew up in Buffalo, heavily Democratic and heavily blue collar. The Democrats in my town were steelworkers, factory workers, cops, teachers, and people who, after voting for Reagan, were surprised to see that the only thing that trickled down to our city was skyrocketing crime and unemployment.

You think the Democrats are out of touch with the working class? The Democrats are the working class.

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Debate Discussion -- Chicken George Jr's challenge

Puzzlinon - 09:01 pm Pacific Time - Sep 28, 2004 - #116 of 143

I think Kerry should treat the failures of the administration not as contentions to be argued but as obvious background to the issues.

"Naturally, letting the drug companies write health care law has sent prices through the roof. Instead, we ... "

"Given the chance to remove a tyrant, the administration decided they knew better than the whole world how to go about it. Now they've turned Iraq into a giant terrorist boot camp. To fix that, we ... "

"The huge giveaways to the super-rich have weakened the whole country at a time when we really need to be strong, so ... ."

"Letting oil companies write energy law, when the one thing we know for sure about oil is that we're running out of it, just makes no sense at all (unless you're being paid by the oil companies). Instead, we ..."

I think a refrain of straightforward ideas, presented calmly and confidently, anchored in the real world, will let people see the difference between someone who's just trying to play president on TV and someone who's ready to take up the job. You tuck all the body slams to the maladministration into calm, introductory background for the different ideas. The easy thing is anticipating what George will say; he's robotically on-message, always. Don't bother trying to interact with that, it's pointless. (George wants to argue whether we're safer or not because Saddam is gone, and so on; don't acknowledge any of that nonsense. Talk about where we are and we have to go.)

I think trying to "win" the "battle" will backfire; they'll just create lots of he-said she-said snark-bytes that the pundits will spin to suit Karl. Don't feed the monkeys: no zingers, no clever shots, just content.

Let George get indignant and huffy all by himself; the contrast I'd like to see is between a serious guy with a clue, and a snippy phony who keeps saying the same things over and over again even though it's obvious bullshit.

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