Covering a political convention is kind of like watching a porn film; you know what’s going to happen by its very definition. My coverage of the Democratic Convention in Boston brought tears to the eyes of some television critics who loudly wailed that I was an irresponsible cad for not broadcasting the prime-time speeches on my program. This, of course, is nonsense. Why would I waste time on partisan presentations? My job is to analyze what is going on, not let politicians bloviate unchecked.
The speeches, of course, are broadcast on other TV outlets, as they should be. If you want ’em, you should get ’em. But remember this: Anybody can say anything. Most words are hollow. In politics, sports and dirty movies, it is actions that count. And one more thing, the most dishonest individual on earth can sound honest, if given the right script.
So what about the Republican Convention in New York? Once again, I will not broadcast the partisan speeches, because they are agenda-driven. Of course, I’ll read the speeches and watch them, if I’m not on the air. Then I’ll give you my opinion on what’s genuine and what’s spin.
Too many Americans are not skeptical enough about what is said to them. Fast-talking con people can hurt you badly. These politicians have a battery of writers parsing every word they say, and their pre-speech rehearsals tend to drain the blood out of their presentations. These people don’t talk from the heart, they talk from a script that is designed to rally the faithful, not put forth solutions to problems. So why should we listen?
Curiosity is the primary reason. The only thing really on the line during those speeches is how the politician will perform. And if you can’t deliver a pre-packaged speech laid out in front of you on a giant teleprompter after days of rehearsal, well, you may lose a few votes.
The contrived convention display on the part of both political parties isn’t offensive to me, it’s just meaningless. What is offensive is the debate structure. This year, the Presidential candidates will meet three times, the Vice Presidential guys once. But the format has a tragic flaw. The debate moderator can’t interrupt the candidates. So if a guy decides to dodge the question or deliver a false fact or dance around an issue, there’s really nothing the moderator can do. And if the questioners point out any spin, deception or obfuscation, they will likely be criticized as being a boorish or partisan.
The candidates, of course, know all this. They also know the likely line of the debate questioning, so once again they can rehearse with their professional “handlers.” Whatever happened to just answering a question honestly? Where is Harry Truman when we need him?
So here’s a bulletin about the Republican Convention and the upcoming debates: Help is not on the way. Hope is not on the way. Nothing is on the way, except how well the candidates can put across their preprogrammed points.
Obviously, this is not the way it should be. The nation deserves rigorous debate and tough, incisive questioning of the candidates. Our lives could be at stake in this election, and the stage play that has become the election process is certainly not making us any safer.