From the classic collection of gags comes this one about Abe the tailor who, in slow times, walks over to visit his fellow tailor, Sam. He arrives to find Sam deep in prayer.
“I am praying for the Resurrection of the Dead,” Sam explains.
“That way we will have millions of new customers.”
“True, but then we will also have thousands of new tailors coming back to compete.”
“Nah,” Sam replies dismissively. “How are they going to know all the new styles?”
If we brought back a past generation of political reporters to check out our Presidential campaign, they would have no chance of recognizing the new style of coverage. There has always been a fairly noticeable leftward tilt in the media, but the press has always stopped short of a full court. Not any more. This year they are courting Barack Obama like a bevy of lovesick maidens.
For the last number of days, he has been traveling the globe on the Obama Magical Victory Tour, from Afghanistan to Iraq , from Israel to Germany . Along the way he pauses to snap up those photo opportunities: “Okay, Barack, look to the left, you want a judicious look right here, not too giddy in a military environment, definitely not angry at the enemy or your bloggers will freak, not bewildered by the complexity of it all or the inexperience charge will stick. Just that sort of pondering-yet-confident proud-yet-wistful adamant-yet-flexible judiciousness that this year’s voter wants to see.”
Then there are the sound bites: “Hey, Barack, we definitely want something pithy here, something that shows sober reflectiveness but doesn’t make you sound like an egghead from Harvard. You need to show on one hand that you appreciate the contribution made by our dedicated military personnel, who are the best and brightest of our children, while at the same time casting a shadow over the unwarranted lah-de-dah optimism of the Bushie neocons. You have to explain why we shouldn’t have gone in, why we now need to get out, and why the military did a heck of a job, all in ten words or less.”
Not to mention picking up the accolades thrown everywhere in his direction like laurels or leis. Now that he does no Wright, it seems he can do no wrong. Everywhere he is celebrated as a great historical figure. He deserves applause for winning the primary race despite his minority race, which broke a real or perceived barrier. The problem is that he is being feted as if his views have prevailed and he has emerged as a great thinker for his time.
Indeed the opposite is the case. He ran espousing the old boring big-government solutions that every Democrat candidate has been promoting throughout our lifetimes, and he ran against another candidate with essentially the same views, in a party where those views are pretty much the price of admission. What he won was a beauty contest and his victory does not testify to any intellectual heft in his program. He prosecuted a very effective campaign, and his team devised a counterintuitive strategy of eking out a slim edge by stringing together all the smaller states. Impressive strategically and smooth politically do not a statesman make.
The McCain campaign is striking back now with a fairly original approach of its own. Instead of waiting until late in the game to complain about press bias, they are striking early. Besides for sending out clever fundraising letters and e-mails making this point, they have gone quite public in a good-tempered way. Quite a few news outlets have responded to the prodding by running stories concerning this question. As they squirm to rationalize their approach, they will be under pressure to be more balanced as the election nears.
Which brings us to the other old joke about the guy who interviews for a tough job. After a rigorous vetting, they make him an offer.
“You will receive ten dollars an hour for the next three months and then we will up the salary to fifteen. When would you like to start?”
“In three months.”
That is about where we, as the nation’s serious readership, stand right now. We think the celebratory period, during which Obama’s seminal achievement warps perspective and forces us to tolerate his endless sashay down the modeling runway, needs to be clipped right here and now. How about if we fast forward three months so we can witness an actual election between two sets of ideas?