The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Monday, October 20, 2008


As we move ever closer to the election (actually, early voting begins today in SoFla), endorsements from major national figures and minor small town newspapers (and everyone in between) have begun. Not surprisingly, the majority of the MSM has endorsed Barack Obama, while the few conservative media outlets have aligned themselves with John McCain.

I find it interesting that in virtually every Obama endorsement, the writer discusses the Senator’s “steady” approach to politics over the past six months, his command over the Obama campaign operation, and his deliberative approach to the issues of the day. These are contrasted to John McCains “erratic” behavior (a brilliant, if grossly overblown DNC talking point). The time line is always kept very short and the emphasis is on the tenor of the approach rather than its actual content and depth.

Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek is representative. He writes:
Let's be honest: neither candidate has past experience that is relevant to being president, except that they have now both run large, multiyear, multimillion-dollar, 50-state campaigns. By common consent, McCain's has been chaotic and ineffective, while Obama has run a superb operation, and done so with little of the drama and discord that usually plague political machines.

This is the case for Obama on substance, which is the most important criterion. But symbolism is also a powerful force in human affairs. Imagine what people around the world would think if they saw America once again inventing the future. And imagine how Americans would feel if they saw their country once again fulfilling its founding creed of equal opportunity, if they saw that there really were no barriers in their country, not even to the highest office in the land, not even for a man with a brown face and a strange name.

Symbolism does matter, and I can’t argue with Zakaria’s premise that the “symbol” of a Barack Obama would be a net positive. But is that all this is about? Symbolism? I’m reminded of an old commerical for Canon SLR cameras where the tag line was “Image is everything.”

I guess I’m just old school. Image and symbolism do matter, but so does content of character, so does a record of demonstrated bipartisanship, so does legislative experience, so do career accomplishments that predated the campaign, so does an ideological position that we can be assured (based on past history) to be neither too far Right nor too far Left.

Or maybe at the dawn of a new postmodern period, image is everything.