Time to ask the right questions

One of the annoying things about being friends with political journalists is hearing them whine that we campaign folk don’t talk about issues. It’s as if they believe in a Neverland where issues are debated in Roman togas around a table on a Sunday morning talk show in sober, respectful tones.

The problem with this fantasy is that we’re not Canadians. We’re electing people to represent us. Have you paid attention to yourself recently, America? We stopped playing nicely with others in kindergarten. A good day for us is when we complete a sentence that only implies an obscenity for emphasis.

Consequently, American campaigns are rhetorical brawls. You’d think the press would be entertained, but no. They fret our politics haven’t washed their hands and put on a coat and tie before reaching our tender ears. But with all the fighting over tax policy, Medicare, Ayn Rand and Keynesian economics, the press would do well to notice this place reeks of issues. We’re just not being nice.

Maybe the press isn’t asking the right questions.

Rather than obsess over whether Rep. Todd Akin (R-17th Century) is quitting his Senate race, how about asking him which rapes aren’t legitimate. Is that when her words, eyes, and body language says no, but her skirt says yes? Should there be an exception to federally funded abortions for when a woman was raped but she was wearing peep-toed stilettos?

Of course, the strangest thing about Akin’s remark was his medical opinion that a woman being raped secretes magical goalie hormones that prevent insemination. A Republican congressional colleague leapt to his defense on Tuesday by saying no one has even told him about any incest victim getting pregnant, so Akin must be right. Serious question: Can Congress pass high school health class?

Akin’s “gaffe”-Washington-speak for accidentally saying what you really believe-did Republicans a favor by getting Paul Ryan and his plan to privatize Medicare out of the spotlight. Essentially, “Ryancare” could give senior citizens a coupon that would get them basic health care or go towards a more expensive insurance policy. But-and this is a serious question, too-if Ryan’s plan would guarantee a basic health care plan, then how would we save money? The press could keep asking about Paul Ryan’s workout tips and how he helps Mitt Romney in Wisconsin, but I’d like to know whether insurance companies would get to decide what constitutes a basic health care policy when I get old. That’s like letting Wall Street decide what constitutes acceptable risk with taxpayer-backed securities.

We could have a serious discussion about gun violence. I can understand not wanting to “politicize” a massacre before we’ve buried the bodies, but what’s the right time to talk about a response when the next shooting happens before we’re done grieving for the last one? If we do nothing in response to crazy people buying guns legally and shooting people illegally, have we decided that our solution is to cross our fingers and hope really, really hard that it never happens again? Because I’ve tried that.

Meanwhile, both Romney and his boy wonder oppose the coming cuts in defense spending because people would lose their jobs. Why does federal spending that makes a bomb create jobs but federal funding to keep teachers and firefighters at their posts hurt our recovery? If, as it appears, the Republican ticket has closet Keynesian tendencies (not that there’s anything wrong with that), will someone explain to me why we’re supposed to think that the federal deficit is hurting private sector growth? In case I can’t read a bar graph, it looks to me like private sector jobs keeps going up, but public sector jobs-those aforementioned teachers and firefighters-keeps going down.

Pity the poor press. They’re paid to follow the elephants and donkeys but fail to notice that they’re at the circus. We’re having a lot of fun fighting over the issues. We just disagree in a messy, disagreeable way. To quote the Bard of Indiana, John Mellencamp, “Ain’t that America, home of the free.”

Copyright 2012 Jason Stanford, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. Stanford is a Democratic consultant who has helped elect or re-elect more than two dozen Members of Congress. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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