Category Archives: 2008 Presidential Campaign

This Was The Week That What?

How can we raise the level of civil discourse when we can’t even be civil? Or civilized? 

I was going to fill in the blanks of my long absence here by explaining that I had spent so much time watching, listening to and reading about last year’s presidential campaign that I ended up not writing about it. There was so much commentary and drama ad infinitum that I didn’t think another voice was needed in the conversation. However, after all the campaigns were over and I had fully digested the political spectacles on both sides, there was one word left that pretty much summed up those long months for me and what I thought of the level of public discourse:  disgusting.

On the Republican side there was the egregious name calling, lying and fear mongering of the lowest levels, and on the Democratic side there was also mudslinging and a well oiled pr campaign that was almost too slick, too seamless, and too flawless. No one’s that perfect. Creating that kind of celebrity status for a presidential candidate left me feeling very uncomfortable, and I’m not sure that I can explain why.  We already have too much emphasis on the cult of personality over substance, and I so wanted substance.

It was no wonder that then candidate Obama’s personal and political eloquence was such a breath of fresh air, rescuing us at moments from the hype und drang. Granted, one can argue that that’s what makes presidential politics so much fun, and I must admit, it’s the only sport that  I follow with glee.  But there was something in all of the primaries and the subsequent presidential campaigns that just left a bad taste in my mouth.  It got downright uglier than usual, in my estimation.  Having watched for years from the inside of the news when I worked at TIME, where I lived through two presidential campaigns, I perhaps have a different perspective than most casual viewers. Those of us on staff who were curious enough (that would be me) would question writers just off the campaign buses and planes to dish out the gossip on both sides of the political circus. Always yummy fodder. But it wouldn’t get reported or spoken about much outside of those hallowed and, for the most part, discreet halls.  I personally wouldn’t dream of repeating hearsay to anyone outside of the office. How unseemly.

But something has changed in our 24/7- live-out loud-in-public-on-the-Internet-with-no-boundaries-or-shame society.  It seems to this observer that we now live in a time when apparently nothing is sacred. Now things that might have been told to me in whispers seem to be shouted out loud to the media by the guilty parties themselves.  I just don’t know what to make of this. Honestly, I’m in culture shock at my own culture.

In the past few months we have been witness to:

-Governor Mark Sandford’s confession: Yes, I played hooky from my job, disappeared and lied to everyone I know, including my family, to be with a mistress whom I love more than my wife, but you should still want me to work for you because I am the chosen one…

-ditto Senator John Ensign: Yes, I’m an adulterer with a mistress whose family happens to work for me and to whom my parents gave thousands of dollars, but I’m still a good person and I confessed so it’s all better now…

–right wing radio and TV talk show hosts happlily spewing  their daily doses of vicious hatemongering, with no censure…

–right wingers carrying signs of the president of the United States as Hitler in a Nazi uniform and pugnaciously shouting down their elected officials in public forums.

But this week left me flummoxed. I couldn’t believe my ears or eyes. Say wha? —

–Congressman Joe Wilson: I can heckle the President of the United States during a serious address to the nation, while the world watches, and I will only apologize when forced  to and now you should give me money….

–Kanye West–I am a complete and utter boor in public in front of millions of people (which includes my fans) and I think this is OK because…

–Serena Williams–It’s normal to lose my temper and show off my potty mouth because millions of sports fans are not watching me on TV in one of the most important tennis matches of the year…

and even, heaven forbid, President Obama–Of course I can use foul language in public to a news anchor since my mic isn’t on and, after all, they never talk…

People, please, don’t apologize in public or share your private moments.

Here’s what I want:   Be ashamed.  Be very ashamed. 

Sometimes shame is a good thing. It’s a responsible feeling.  Shame says, “I know that I have done something very, very wrong, and I feel bad about that. I should amend my ways.” 

What happens when uncivil and uncivilized behavior goes unchecked? What kind of society do we want to have?  The word “civil” is derived from the Latin word “civilis”, which means “citizen”.   I’m for that. Let’s put civility back in the citizen. 

Civility seems not only to have left the building but also the continent. Can we raise the level of public discourse in this frothing fray?  I voted for intelligence and rationality.  At least in public, we can show a little class. Media training, anyone….?

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Best Campaign Website: Presidential Candidate Susie Flynn

Surfing the late night Tube last evening, I paused at Tavis Smiley, who was in the midst of an onscreen interview with one of my favorite Americans, the inimitable  and articulate Marian Wright Edelman,  head of the Children’s Defense Fund, or as I like to call her, “the smartest woman in Washington”.   Not only is the CDF behind the children’s health insurance initiative, I discovered they are running their own candidate for President.  Her name is Susie Flynn, a bright young woman who is running on the issue of universal health care for children.  However, her name will never make it to the ballot. Presidential candidate Susie Flynn is 10-years-old. 

This doesn’t stop me from giving her my vote–for the Best Campaign Website and, most importantly, Best Use of New Media in the 2008 presidential campaign, so far.  Candidates, take notes.

I don’t know who is responsible for the creation and execution of this brilliant idea, but you have to hand it to the CDF team for getting it all right.  At this point, it is clear that the 2008 campaign will be made on the Internet, and may the best web developers win.  Political TV commercials are so last century.

Here’s what they’re up to on the website:

HOME page:
As they say in their campaign slogan, there are 9 million uninsured children in this country, so they are trying to collect 9 million signatures on their petition. The platform is laid out simply on the Home page, where you  sign and click your name onto the petition.  The petition counter is right there, so you see that your name has been added and counted. The left hand column is a blog where you can leave a comment, and you also see Susie’s latest campaign videos, posted on YouTube.

Click on “GET INVOLVED” and you see a map with icon push pins of how many have signed the petition where.  On “Supporter Pics”  you get two options:  1) download the PDF of Susie’s campaign yard sign and 2) upload photos of you and your clan with your campaign yard sign to Susie’s–you guessed it–Flickr page.  “My Banners” gives you the html code to paste the campaign banners on your website or blog. “Tell A Friend” sends a message to your contacts with all the appropriate links.  And that’s just the beginning.

LINKS” is where the real fun begins.  Not only will you find, finally, the links to CDF’s fund and issue topics, you are also linked to Susie’s MySpace page, Facebook page, and Care2 page.

See below my favorite campaign video called “My attempt to get a Susie Flynn yard sign at the White House”.  Then directly after that watch part two in that series called, “Susie Flynn takes her campaign to the White House”.

The mystery remains, who is this charming gap-toothed girl. Talk about fresh faces in Washington. Finally, candidates might also be wise to take some cues from Hollywood:  cute kids will always upstage you.

Susie Flynn on YouTube:

My attempt to get a Susie Flynn yard sign in the white house