April 19, 2008

The lapel pin question: The REST of the story

Interesting backstory about perhaps the most stupid and inane question of Wednesday's debate, the one where ABC decided to confront Obama with the video question of a woman with the action hero name Nash McCabe and her concern over whether Obama "respects the flag".

ABC's Gibson tried to distance himself from the stupidity of the question by having a "regular person" ask it, maintaining that this is just what people out there are discussing, and noting that it was "all over the internet".

First of all, so are theories that say LBJ murdered JFK, and that Bush blew up the World Trade Center and that the government have the carcasses of aliens from outer space locked away at a top secret base in Roswell, NM. Trying to maintain that a question is legit because it's on the internet is no sort of defense whatsoever.

So viewers were left thinking that this was indeed a big issue on the minds of, certainly, millions of people. Otherwise why would they squander such precious air-time on it, right? Gibson said it was a question they ran into all the time.
As I watched her question, what I wondered -- and I imagine many other viewers wondered as well -- was where on earth did ABC find this representative of my home state. As a journalist, I kind of assumed that ABC sent a film crew to western Pa., and then culled the most provocative questions from the people that they found. Silly me. In fact, ABC News found Nash McCabe the old-fashioned way -- they read about her, and her thing with the American flag, in the New York Times earlier this month.
So Nash McCabe wasn't located at random at all. Instead, someone at ABC News decided that they wanted to go after Obama on the patriotism issue, and they actively sought a Pennsylvanian who they knew wanted to bring it up. I assume they thought it would sound better if "a typical voter" asked the question instead of Charlie Gibson. "You see, we're only raising the issue the voters really care about," they can claim.

And McCabe's life story makes you wonder if Obama wasn't dead right about his assessment of small-town economically strapped voters and how they gravitate to issues that are so far down the list on what one would think their priorities should be that it boggles the mind.

From McClatchy Newspapers:
But to understand why Obama rubs McCabe wrong is to go beyond the question of what a flag pin has to do with patriotism — it's not really about the flag pin, she said in a telephone interview Thursday — and consider McCabe's life. It's no Hawaiian prep school and Ivy League story, unlike Obama's. It's a slice of working-class Pennsylvania, the core of Hillary Clinton's support there.

McCabe met her husband, Lloyd, in April 1983 at a dance. They married two months later. Six months after that, she says, he was injured in a coal mine accident. He hasn't worked since.

They never had children. He had back surgery. The muscle relaxers he took damaged his heart. He's had three bypasses, nine angioplasties, seven stents and a pacemaker. Three months ago doctors found a brain tumor. His choice: surgery that he may or may not survive, or life in a wheelchair.

Over 25 years of marriage, McCabe was the breadwinner. She said it took eight years to get her husband disability payments, during which time they racked up huge bills.

"I was a nurse's aide, a cashier," McCabe said. "From 1996 to 2000, I was a manager of a cleaning company. I started out as secretary and worked my way up to manager, and then the company decided to close. It took me almost two-and-a-half years to find a job that I got laid off from recently" as a clerk-typist. She has a high school diploma.

Sometimes the McCabes borrow money from her parents, who are in their 70s. She has a request in to the local food bank to see if she and her husband qualify.

"People who have sick spouses or children understand how hard it is," she said.

McCabe sympathizes with working-class people who got in over their heads during the housing boom. She opposes the Iraq war and thinks President Bush has hurt the country. She doesn't support Republican John McCain because he's too close to Bush.

On paper, her stances make her as likely to support Obama as Clinton.

But she sees a difference between the two. In Clinton, she sees someone who has struggled for years, just like her, and has earned the right to be president. In Obama, she sees someone who rose like a rocket, always has a smooth explanation for everything — whether it's about his former preacher or the flag pin — and who makes it all look too easy.

"That's what upsets me about Barack Obama," she says. "He takes everything so nonchalantly."

Yep, there ya go. Can't have that. Why if a guy is nonchalant...it's bad because... well... because.... well, ...... you know, why doesn't he wear a flag pin?

Is this just people who don't like Obama because of his race clawing for plausible reasons not to support him?

The reasons are so non-sensical that it makes you wonder. And it seems to confirm that on the substance, Obama's "bitter" comments that he's so routinely attacked for were absolutely true.


At 4/20/2008 5:39 PM, Blogger nicodemus said...

I remember the "youtube" presidential debate earlier this year which totally debased the process by accepting silly and gimmicky questions from "ordinary Americans" on the internet (Many of them were total crackpots).

I have learned not to put a lot of stock in the "wisdom" of "regular people". No matter what side of the aisle you're on, I think we can all point to elections in history where the collective decision of the voters was not a smart one. Even Plato knew that this was a problem inherent in democracy: the danger of the stupidity of the masses.

Here in Illinois, we hear all this talk about the option of "RECALL" of the governor and elected officials. Well if voters got it right in the first place and didn't elect idiots, then we would not need recall. We never should have elected Blagojevich in the first place or George Ryan either, for that matter.

At 4/21/2008 3:17 AM, Blogger The Inside Dope said...

ha! Had to chuckle on your observation that if us knuckle-heads would get it right the first time, there'd be no need for recall elections. ha!

There's two schools of thought on the ability of the public to make wise choices in their governance.

One of course that you hear extolled from politicians most often is that the people are pretty much the wisest decision makers on earth.

Right wingers have taken to this in their attempts to destroy government by arguing that the people know best and that if they don't want to give a damned dime to the government, then that's pretty much the word of God as far as they're concerned. (unless it's hundreds of billions for defense contracts, then it's "supporting the troops" and refusing to give in to "terrorists".)

They constantly, when it fits their purposes, rail about how the people know best, if they want to be racist crackers, then they should be able to, if they don't want to pay no gol dang taxes, then they shouldn't have to, if they want to have a small arsenal of assault weapons with armor piercing amunition,even if they're certifiably insane, then by God, it's their right, and if some back-ass-wards state wants to pass all sorts of unconstitutional laws, then they oughta be able to, and on and on.

They pay endless lip service to the "people", though they're constantly bamboozling and lying to those same people while they rob them blind.

They've spent years convincing rubes that the Democrats are "elitists" and eggheads and San Francisco hippies and commies and that they don't give a rat's ass about the average guy.

Just pulling one's head out of one's own posterior for a moment shows clearly that this isn't the case, and that if any party represents the interests of the truly elite and powerful in this country, it's the Republicans, lock, stock, and barrel.

But they've effectively pulled off one of the greatest con jobs in history and now "the people" are starting to wonder what sort of snake oil they've been sold.

Oh sure, a lot of them will still blame the party that stands to help them most, and staunchly continue to vote for the party who would be perfectly content to let them fight amongst themselves for a gallon of gas and pit them against each other over affirmative action and gay marriage while they systematically go about looting the country white, and telling these rubes whatever they want to hear.

But this very dependence on lying to people, swindling them essentially, and the fact that their ascention to power and their staying there is built completely on such lies and deceit, show clearly that they don't have ANY respect for these average people they manipulate so cynically.

They fool the rubes and serve the rich. Simple.

The other school of thought says that "the people" really do get it right more often then not.

It holds that in the long run, the people actually figure it out and get it right.

And for most of this country's history, this has held true. A few big detours along the way, but overall, we've done very well.


That depends on "the people" having the information and the truth that is required for them to make informed decisions.

For the past few decades as the media was swallowed up by a handful of conglomarates, it's apparent that we are NOT getting important information.

The "news" is now simply competing propaganda arms of various interests.

With the exception of C-Span and PBS to a lesser degree, there simply isn't any "straight" news available. (C-Span standing out as perhaps the single most valuable civic gesture a corporate industry has ever done for the American people.)

How can we the people make informed judgements and wise choices when we're fed almost entirely on pure crap? When the airwaves are saturated with every dim-witted attempt to paint our leaders as pond scum or worse, what the hell do we expect?

And the flip side that makes it even worse is that for every hour taken up by nit-wits jawing and competing to see who can make the most dramatic and inflamatory charges and invent the most fantastic tales about candidates, that's an hour that's NOT devoted to addressing any number of very serious issues, many of which most people aren't even aware of.

Well, I'll put on the brakes there, but I guess what I was trying to say is, the people aren't infallable, but they do get it right eventually, IF they're provided the truth.


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