Potholes on the High Road
We have spent so much time piling on Bill Clinton, it wouldn't surprise me if he called a news conference, simply to tell reporters to go to Hell, that he simply wouldn't deal with them anymore, something akin to "You won't have me to kick around anymore"
Yeah yeah, I know, that was more piling on. But now, I think the time has come to tackle Barack Obama. Mr. Clinton is right. Obama has been getting a free ride.
My friend, Howard Kurtz, of the Washington Post, has an important column in Monday's paper, in which he describes Obama's refusal to have regular dealings with his traveling press.
Why should he, after all? He's done quite well running a rock star campaign, generating all the publicity and great video he needs by turning on large crowds, who are inspired by his platitudes.
Well, here's why he should: The reporters who see and hear him every day are the best equipped to question his positions. They are the ones who can make the candidate deal with the nitty-gritty of the campaign. After all, a president will have to deal with the nitty-gritty of governing, won 't he? Inspiring speeches won't be enough.
No one loves the press, certainly not the candidates and high officials, who would prefer a cocoon inhabited by adoring sycophants, as opposed to a snarling swarm of professional skeptics.
But like it or not, us wretches have an important role. We are the reality check that is fundamental in our democratic system. We can't have an informed electorate if the voters fully understand what their favorites will get us into. We should not have to rely on the self-serving, propaganda put out by their campaigns.
Obama's aloofness could be a serious flaw. It could mean he can't tolerate the kind of challenges to his ideas and presentation that are essential. He needs to be willing to mix it up with those who are best equipped to ask the tough questions. He may want to travel the high road, but he must be willing to maneuver any bumps caused by the low-lifes in the press.
We journalists also need to wise up. Barack Obama puts on a good light show at his rallies. We shouldn't get so starry-eyed after we've watched one of his concerts. It's time to demand that Obama be seen offstage, closer up. Sporadic appearances on the morning broadcasts or Sunday talk shows are not enough. The valid candidate needs to engage with tough questioners constantly, every day. This is an election, not a coronation.
One of the Clintons' biggest problems is the impression they leave that they are far too accomplished to deal with unworthies like us riff-raff reporters. We don't need another candidate like that. Barack Obama seems to have the same tendencies. Is there something about an Ivy League education that fosters that kind of mindset?
Come to think of it there probably is. Frankly, the adherents may be right about us, but a major qualification for any successful politician is his or her ability to suffer fools. They need to at least be able to condescend. We'll all be the wiser for it.