Political White Noise

By Beacon Staff

I can’t do it any longer. My eyes are glazed over and my brain feels like tapioca. I haven’t spent this much time reading words that have no meaning since my beginning fiction-writing workshop in college. The articles now being written about the prolonged primary race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have zero information, and yet I can’t stop reading them.

The endless parsing of possible delegate acquisition theories, the debate over whether the primary marathon is the best thing for the Democratic Party or will cause its downfall, the constant speculation into what, exactly, Hillary is thinking… I think I’m done with all of it. There’s just no new information out there on this particular topic right now. Good for Obama that he took a few days off in the Virgin Islands. The traveling press corps should do the same; I don’t think we’d miss them – or suffer from any lack of vital information.

As a reporter, I have the utmost respect and admiration for the journalists covering the presidential campaign. Yes, we can criticize them for resorting to “horse race” style coverage, or not hammering a candidate with this or that issue as hard as we think they should. And yes, these reporters get paid quite a bit and stay in nice hotels.

But these reporters are also under constant pressure to come up with some new and brilliant insight on the nature of presidential politics at least once a day, or sometimes more frequently, if they blog as well as file stories for their newspapers. And, amazingly, these political writers did a decent job of that up until a few weeks ago. But that’s over; and the reporters are clearly tapped for ideas. Who can blame them?

Witness recent stories in the New York Times about young campaign aides unable to get married because the primary race is lasting longer than they anticipated, or a story about how few print reporters are filling up seats on the press buses of the campaigns. These are – obviously – the kinds of ideas reporters come up with when, exhausted and slumped over on a campaign bus or plane, they look around to notice the seat next to them is empty or they hear some young campaign workers arguing with their fiancé via cell-phone. Interesting ideas? Sort of. Desperate? Most definitely. And no one can say such stories don’t take up as much space in the newspaper as something relevant.

Not only that, but witness the recent media storms surrounding candidates’ most recent liabilities and/or mistakes: the controversial speeches by Obama’s pastor; Clinton’s assertion that she arrived in the Balkans under a hail of gunfire, which was later proven untrue; and John McCain’s bumble that Iran was arming Sunni, not Shiite militias in Iraq.

All of these issues are important, and I credit the press with getting at the truth in every case. The public should know about these things and reach their own conclusions. But I don’t think any of these controversies rise to the level of true deal breakers in any candidates’ case. I just don’t.

In the meantime, I scan the columnists and blogs and newspapers every day. And I learn nothing new on any given morning that I didn’t know before. And I pray for the general election to begin.