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Aha. In debate format the governor becomes Miss Congeniality all of a sudden. And not unlike Sandra Bullock’s character in the movie of the same name, Sarah Palin does in fact clean up pretty well. I kept waiting for the words, "world peace" to spring from her lips. Unfortunately they never did. Neither did the candidates debate each other. The governor's one-and-only vice presidential "ghost" debate played out like nothing more than a dual press conference--a photo op with questions from a seasoned reporter. Okay-fine, as president of the local PTA. . .definitely a standout. As someone who can round up a few friends and get elected governor of a state where Moose outnumber people. . .understandable. But as the person first in line to accede to the Oval Office. . .surely you jest. There's only one word to describe John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate--cynical.

That's right. Cynical. Let's look it up.

cyn-i-cal (sini kl) adj. [[< L cynicus , of the Cynics: see prec.]] 1 believing that people are motivated in all their actions only by selfishness; denying the sincerity of people's motives and actions, or the value of living 2 sarcastic, sneering, etc. 3 [C-] Cynic --cyni-cal-ly adv(1)

To sense #1 I would add [[. . .the belief on the part of politicians that the electorate is stupid and is easily manipulated through warped public opinion.]] On the face of things this would fit John McCain's view of the typical American voter like a second skin--that Mr. and Mrs. Average American are too ignorant of facts. . .too lazy to care about or question the political establishment's (and in McCain's case, his own) ulterior motives. The strategy is to whip up public passion with hot-button issues, being certain that the "people" referred to in the above definition are too myopic and too taken up with their own day-to-day struggles to deduce or even care about what is really happening around them politically, and then to perpetuate all this as they are wont to do, with a silent sneer bubbling away deep inside their scheming little hearts and minds.

This isn't putting 'country first.' This is putting John McCain first. This is 'get elected' at any cost and let the chips fall where they may. John McCain knows very well what it means to tap the shoulder of the person who could ascend to the office of President at any moment. . .within the proverbial heartbeat, as they say. But to him it doesn't matter. Most people will barely notice, and those who do will just have to "adapt" the same way we've adapted over the past eight years to the failed policies of the worst president in U.S. history, and just look where it's gotten us. I'd go further and say that this is the credo of all career politicians, but that would probably be way too cynical.

Or would it? In presidential debate #2 the candidates were asked whether politicians should ever be trusted to translate campaign rhetoric into hard reality. In turn, both candidates responded with the suggestion that the questioner--a voter, don't forget--was being too "cynical". That floored me. Suddenly the pot feels justified in ridiculing the kettle's exposed copper bottom. Well, modesty aside, neither candidate seems to be clear on the difference between healthy skepticism, which is what really speaks to the voter's question, and toxic cynicism. The voter had a perfectly valid point. After all, who sides with history on this issue. . .the voter?. . .or the politician? By contrast, what does it take to pursue a career in politics if not cynicism, leaving the open question, "How in the world do humans get like that?" Is it simply their insatiable thirst for power? It's a complicated question and one that deserves its own space and its own time, but without a doubt one of the bridges to the cynicism of politics comes to us via the cynicism of the press.

The following, I believe, is a prime example.

Peggy Noonan(2) as a guest on the NPR program, "On Point" with Tom Ashbrook, ascribed the current financial crisis according to the following (I'm paraphrasing here):

[The banking crisis, based on some nebulous combination of "political forces," came about as banks became victims of a kind of invisible "over regulation," and were compelled, mind you, to pressure ordinary working class Americans into taking on mortgage loans that both sides felt--and even knew in some cases--were beyond the applicant's ability to repay.]

That right there puts the cynicism of modern political discourse, as partially digested and regurgitated through the partisan press, in a class all by itself. I'd have no doubt that those conservative politicians who are looking for a new pitch will seize upon this immediately. The message of partisanship calls out loud and clear. . .if people are predisposed to believe something and then should happen to read it in the New York Times, you've got them. In other words, if you can warp public opinion sufficiently, they'll be converts forever. Never mind that it's garbage ground up in the disposer and coming to you directly from the kitchen sink. According to the political establishment, you see, the great unwashed public is too stupid to know the difference.

This is also why we have "think tanks" like the American Enterprise Institute, without which most Americans would be in deep trouble, or so a certain group of elitists would have us believe. Apparently this is where the public's deep thinking--at least as far as the press and others who have more than modest stake in such things--really originates from. "We're the smartest guys in the room," they banter back and forth. "What does the stupid public know, anyway"? So before we give Ms. Noonan too much credit for having come up with an original idea, here's another example, the source of which seems beyond mildly interesting.

Russell Roberts(3) also a guest on Tom Ashbrook's program a day or so after Ms. Noonan's appearance, treated the listening audience to the exact same formulation for the economic missteps we're seeing as did Ms. Noonan. So if one of them is the chicken, the other must be the egg. . .but which is which? Well chickens eat and have to be fed as does the media, so who better to feed them than politically partisan professors? Especially *this* professor who happens to subscribe to the Alan Greenspan school of economic thought. And it just so happens that there's another school of thought out there incubating the idea that it was actually the good Dr. Greenspan who hatched this rotten egg in the first place. Hey, there's no denying that what's happened began happening (and continued unrestrained) on his watch. Now I ask you . . . is this supposed to pass as credentialism?. . .or is it just feeding warped public opinion?

So there you have it, Ms. Noonan. What say you now? Uh-h-h. . .I beg your pardon? Pass the salsa, did you say? My pleasure. Care for a little crow to go along with it? I'm sorry. . .would you mind repeating that? Oh, yeah? WELL SAME TO YOU, LADY!
----

(1) Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia

(2) Author & New York Times Contributing Editorial Writer

(3) Professor of Economics, George Mason University




------
Fritzwilliam


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