Thursday, September 30, 2004

Skippy of the Day: USA Today

Similar thoughts have been expressed by various news outlets and commentators, including Tim Russert on the "Today" show this morning, but I'm choosing a front page headline by USA Today (print edition) as the Skippy to represent them all:

Words May Fall Short In Debate: Gaffes Could Leave Lasting Impression
Consider this scenario: You work your ass off on a term paper for a professor. You have researched it for months and make many important conclusions. It is an "A" paper in every respect. The day after you turn it in, your professor gives it back to you with a "C-". He explains, between giggles, that although he thought your single Freudian slip on page 17 was hysterical and memorable, your paper was not supposed to be a humor piece.

Putting aside the fact that some professors can be real a**holes about such things, they are nonetheless fully in control of situations such as grading papers. They have the opportunity and an implicit duty to be fair. Journalists are in the same category. Tonight, we have the first of three Presidential debates. The news outlets are stating that although there will be important and vital issues discussed, slips of the tongue and verbal stumbles may unfortunately become the talking points the day after. There is a problem with this: The journalists control what become the talking points.

Those that choose not to watch the debates for whatever reason will tune in the next morning to see what happened. By their own admission, journalists are stating that they will choose to feature the most embarrassing 30 seconds out of 60 minutes of debates. Out of that same 60 minutes, there will also likely be impassioned statements of policy and principle on both sides that may better represent the majority of what was said by the candidates that night. The journalists have the opportunity and an implicit duty to fairly show these points to an audience looking for important reasons to vote for one candidate or the other.

I apply this standard is respect to both candidates. As much as I loathe Dubya, I really don't care if his tongue gets ties in its usual fashion tonight. However, I do make the distinction between being tongue tied and blathering on in a fashion that clearly shows that he doesn't know what the hell he's talking about. This is a case in point, though the quote loses something in print. You have to see the video of Bush blindly searching for an answer, any answer, to this subject he apparently was never briefed on. The same goes for Kerry if he's asked a question he's not prepared for. That's the way the debate ball bounces.

Ever since Nixon broke a sweat on the first televised debates, candidates have been scrutinized on these special occasions we hold every four years. Mrs. Mosley and I will be watching tonight and hoping that Kerry will be able to show those watching that he's not the man portrayed by Dubya in his campaign commercials. Heaven knows that both candidates have been shown as doofuses through selected clips in these TV spots. Let us all hope that, from this serious and thoughtful format tonight, those reporting on it do not result to the same tactics.

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