Presidential election thrived on overkill

Thank God it’s over.

The presidential election initially seemed like great political theater, but it turned out to be interminable — repetitive and nasty. The ultimate irony: We don’t really know our candidates any better now than we did before the conventions.

John McCain was billed as the steely military man and Barack Obama the cerebral work-in-progress. But Obama ran his campaign with military discipline and McCain succumbed to his eccentricities.

Yet with all the over-coverage, the candidates and their families retained their distance. I still have no idea who Cindy McCain is, but I suspect she’d be the best dinner company in the group. And has anyone heard a peep from Todd Palin?

We all understand the cosmic importance of the election but most of us are plain sick of the noise and bombast. As an example, I never wanted to write this column — still another political commentary — but everything else pales in importance.

Even the media pundits have a tough time concealing their combat fatigue, which is combined with a sense of dread. Nearly everyone covering this campaign finds himself (or herself) out on a limb.

The Rush Limbaugh-Sean Hannity cult cannot believe that the nation’s voters may have ignored their dictates, and may not have believed their bogus polls. Limbaugh last week was sulking, and moaning about the media conspiracy that dominates our pop culture. Similarly the shrill Obama camp-followers like Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow will go into shock if their smug forecasts turn out to be false.

If Obama wins, how can Drudge not be embarrassed by his tilt to the right — where was the “fair-and-balanced” doctrine online? And I find it hard to believe that, even at the eleventh hour, Bill O’Reilly is still proclaiming balanced reporting at Fox News, relying on, of all people, the oleaginous Bernard Goldberg as his media arbiter.

The bottom line is that the length and noise of the campaign has made everyone a little crazy. I hope I never see another talking head labeled “Democratic strategist” or “media advisor” (who are these people and does anyone pay them?).

The campaign has been a dark time for pundits; every time they advanced a new prognostication, some external event rendered their punditry irrelevant. A “strategist” sermonizing about Iraq or Afghanistan suddenly realizes that all that matters is the tanking economy. Joe the Plumber’s complaints about taxes are suddenly meaningless when most of his fellow plumbers have no money to pay taxes at any level.

Similarly, it is weird to see McCain denouncing Obama’s supposed plan to “re-distribute” income to a crowd of people who are worried whether they’ll have any income at all.

At least now the curtain will finally fall on this turgid drama and a president we hardly know will take office. And it might still take a while to figure out who he is.

George W. Bush celebrated his victory with lectures about inclusiveness, then pushed Colin Powell forward as his token moderate. Bush became the instant centrist — a bogus one, at that.

So let’s hope the next winner will at least acknowledge who he is at the start and what he intends to do.

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