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Who's responsible for the lack of substance in discussions about the presidential campaign?


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Alex Koppelman
May 1, 2008 12:05AM (UTC)

Yes, it would be nice if the press spent less time on inanities and more time on how candidates planned to actually run the country. But this view of the media is just too simplistic.

Like it or not, virtually every mini-dustup in a presidential campaign -- Wrightgate, Tuzlagate, bittergate, Judigate, etc. -- has one thing in common: it lends itself to a simple moral judgment. It helps a lot if there's also video available (or photos in a pinch), but the really important part is the simple moral judgment. That's what people react to. Cable news amplifies this tendency and makes it worse, but they didn't invent it.

And look: the blogosphere isn't much better. Take a look at the comment section of most political blogs and check out which posts get the most activity. Learned discussions of the history of the Earned Income Tax Credit? Analysis of which Shiite faction is up or down in Iraq's civil war? Nope. It's Wrightgate and Tuzlagate and bittergate and Judigate and any other post that provides an opportunity to express a simple moral judgment. Republicans suck. Dems are spineless. The media is corrupt.

And this is true even though blog readers tend to be far more wonky than the average politically lethargic American... Now, dig up a video of John McCain having dinner with some blonde bombshell oil industry lobbyist coyly telling him how much she wants to show her appreciation for his bold gas tax holiday proposal, and you've got yourself a story. Until then, CNN can put this on a 24/7 loop and it's just not going to catch on. You can't blame the media for everything.

That's from a post Kevin Drum wrote at his blog, Political Animal.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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