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Game Theory and the U.S. Presidential Election of ’08
Scott Harris of WPKN's Counerpoint and Between the Lines:
Thursday, December 27, 2007
Like every year in the U.S., Christmas is a time when families travel hundreds or thousands of miles to be with one another on the most widely celebrated Christian holiday of the year.
While parents and children; brothers and sisters; cousins, aunts and uncles catch up on the news of the past year, job changes, births and deaths -- one of the staples of most American holiday conversations is sports: Who won the big game, which coach should be fired and favored teams to win the Super Bowl or NBA championship.
With the coming year in U.S. politics possibly one of the most important in decades -- press coverage of the early Democratic and Republican presidential primary contests has been predictably disappointing -- treating the competition as if it were a mere sporting event.
As Paul Krugman aptly noted in his New York Times column of Sept. 27th:
One of my pet peeves about political reporting is the fact that some of my journalistic colleagues seem to want to be in another business -- namely, theater criticism. Instead of telling us what candidates are actually saying -- and whether it’s true or false, sensible or silly -- they tell us how it went over, and how they think it affects the horse race.
With pundits guessing who will take the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the analogy of the political horse race seems appropriate. Much of the corporate media, whether in print or in expensive, slick TV extravaganzas endlessly present poll numbers and examine the shallowest aspects of the candidates statements, personal histories and even facial expressions. Hillary’s wardrobe; Obama’s admission of using drugs as a young man; Edward’s pricey haircuts; Giuliani’s limousine rides for his gal pal during an extramarital affair and Mitt Romney’s false statements about how his father had “marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
While President Bush and his co-conspirators in the White House daily shred new paragraphs of the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and the Geneva Conventions, many Americans gathered around the holiday table this year find themselves uneasy about the authoritarian path the Bush crowd has steered the nation down in recent years. A feeling that the United States has taken the wrong road, departing dramatically from our nation’s self-image as a leader in democratic values and human rights.
But, sadly, all too many Americans, caught up in the day-to-day grind, often working two or three jobs just to pay the monthly rent or their subprime mortgage, skyrocketing health insurance costs and rising college tuition payments – aren’t armed with essential information about the crisis their nation faces in advance of the November 2008 presidential election.
President Bush’s illegal and deadly war in Iraq, warrantless spying on American citizens, phony reporters on the White House payroll, the censoring of government documents on climate change science and the secret detention and torture of U.S.-held terrorist suspects followed by attempts to cover-up much of the wrongdoing through claims of executive privilege, stonewalling of evidence and the destruction of video tapes -- all this has an eerie echo of the Watergate era. But unlike Richard Nixon’s botched second rate-burglary and the subsequent cover-up that catapulted the nation toward impeachment proceedings widely investigated in the press -- the reality of today’s much more serious political crisis is by and large going unreported by the nation’s largest media corporations.
So while the calendar moves quickly to a new year, most Americans find themselves more fixated on the latest consumer gadgets and sports scores than on the political crisis gathering in Washington.
Sadly, even when the topic of politics does come up around the dinner table, more often than not these discussions mimic our media's obsession with the latest polls, who’s up, who’s down. Horse-race reporting on the ’08 election seem almost deliberately designed to prevent the stirring of passions within the average citizen. When faced with the choice of Rudy, Hillary, Obama or Mitt -- who really would switch the channel from Monday night football to see the next candidates debate?
But what if the choice was between devoting hours of attention to televised sports or saving our nation's democracy? If the U.S. media system were ever to miraculously awake from its deep coma, and replace their endless reports on Britney Spears and her younger sister’s pregnancy with detailed reports on the present threat to American democracy, maybe citizens would rise up to take back their country from one of the most corrupt and dangerous governments our nation has ever known.
What if Americans knew the number of lies and scandals chalked by President Bush and his cronies as well as they knew the record of Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning? What if average citizens were as well acquainted with the positions of all presidential candidates on national healthcare policy as they are with NBA star Kobe Bryant’s stats on points scored per game (and the intimate details of his rape trial)? America would be a far different place and the crisis of our democracy wouldn’t be nearly so deep and so frightening.
If Americans fully understood the crimes that are daily being committed in their name by the gang of thugs in the White House, then impeachment would be back on the table and the presidential election of 2008 would actually force candidates to decide whether they are for the U.S. Constitution or against it.