Issue: 1.12 11/1/2000
by: Joe Klock Sr,
'Tis the Season to be Ollie…

Ollie North, that is - or Paul Begala, they being the unswerving sophists who nightly clash on MSNBC's "Equal Time." Positioned as they are on the extreme Right and Left of the political axis, they are typical of the pundits - "pundints" to some unlettered commentators - who have swarmed onto the national TV scene and into the print media like a plague of body lice.

By either name, they abound on talk shows, round tables, panels, editorial pages, syndicated columns and the so-called Spin Rooms, wherein the goofs and gaffes of presidential candidates are minimized, rationalized, euphemized, deodorized, humanized, sanitized, exorcized and/or simonized after their public utterances.

These are the massagers (sometimes massacrers) of fact who disseminate slogans, sound bites, half-truths, biased opinions and other communication clutter, and from whom seldom is heard an encouraging word about anyone with an opposing view. The redoubtable gladiators in today's mass media arenas give no ground to their opponents, seeing Camelot on their own turf and Gehenna on the others'.

Aside: A notable exception to this oil-and-water relationship (and proof positive of the old adage about strange bedfellows in politics) is the odd-couplish pairing of Mary Matalin and James (Ragin' Cajun) Carville. She of the ultra-Right and he of the equally-ultra Left viciously rail at each other by workday, but have managed to collaborate nocturnally in the production of two children. (Amor vincit omnia!)

We, the people, get most of the information on which to base our political decisions from this band of bigoted blow-it-alls, which, I hasten to add, does not include a shrinking and endangered species of thoughtful analysts - voices crying out in a wilderness of blah-blah-blah. (Where have you gone, Walter Cronkite?) The quadrennial quandary in which we again find ourselves as Election Day approaches has worsened over recent decades. During that period, the distinction between news and opinion has been irreparably blurred, while the output of raw information (ans mis-) has exploded into a 24/7 assault on our senses and sensibilities. In fact, the only unfiltered glimpses we had this year of both presidential candidates were three "debates," which were about as accurately named as the psychedelic drug "Ecstasy" - and infinitely less stimulating.

Having watched all three TV encounters between Gore and Bush, I'm still waiting in vain for the first real give-and-take confrontation, in which issues are raised, rebutted and re-rebutted within a set of rules that rule out half-truths, evasion and toe-dancing. As staged this year, the three presidential debates offered each candidate an opportunity to trot out his boilerplate mantras and either ignore or brush away those of his opponent... all without alienating their "political bases" (read mindless minions, sycophants, power brokers and those with a vested interest in their proposals). In this effort, they succeeded admirably, if one is to believe their spin-doctors and the aforementioned pundits, who provide hours of interpretation of every millisecond of output by the candidates, and whose activities are closely akin to what cats do before exiting their litter boxes.

Genuine debates would - and should - involve parry and thrust on every issue, rather than the simultaneous shadow-boxing we recently witnessed. Once...just once...I'd like to witness a real candidate debate under real rules of engagement, with a stern, steady moderator at the helm to keep the principals on course. Tim Russert came close to filling that role in the Hillary/Rick debate, while Jim Lehrer was pretty much reduced to road kill in the main events. The result: no runs, no hits, no errors and a lot of voters left on base after the Oz-like Odyssey in which little more was learned than that the Scarecrow had some smart and the Tin Man some heart.

Anyway, things being what they are, we're left at the mercy of the spin doctors, ad writers, sloganeers and partisans purveyors of "the truth about what the American people really want" (i.e., every wonderful blessing their man promises and nothing of the other guy's crap). I, along with a huge chunk of the electorate, am suffering from a serious case of Pundit Fatigue and a burning desire to be treated like a reasonably intelligent and caring humanoid.

Having said that, I will, of course, sort through the sturm und drang of runaway rhetoric (B.S., if you prefer) and pull the lever of least distaste on November 7, confident that all true Americans will do the same. "All true" was used herein advisedly, because in my not-so-humble judgment, those who don't vote (by some estimates half of our citizenry) don't deserve the name "American," and wear their apathy as a badge of shame. Worse than that, they also surrender their most precious birthright to myopic party loyalists, political hacks, self-serving bureaucrats, the buyers and sellers of influence and those pain-in-the-ass "pundints."

Joe Klock, Sr. (The Goy Wonder) is a freelance writer and career curmudgeon. To read past columns (free), visit
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