Sunday, August 20, 2006

The US Has the President it Deserves.

This afternoon I was listening to Ira Glass on NPR. He's got a program called "This American Life" that runs on Sundays. Admittedly I have never made a concerted effort to listen to this program as I usually have other priorities. But now and again while driving here or there, I have caught bits and pieces of his whiny nasality... and usually I find something in it to be amused by. I've always been under the impression that Glass was a bit of a darling to those of a progressive bent in our society. I was quickly disabused of that notion today.

The theme of Glass' show today was something akin to "Things I Would Like To See Just Go Away." There were stories of annoying pets and lasting obligations promised to former friends. Between tales there was a segment concerning John Kerry, current senator from the state of Massachusetts. Glass was bemoaning the fact that Kerry is still in the public eye after having lost what Glass saw as an "easy" election for the presidency in 2004 (I guess it's lost on Ira that Kerry is in the position of an elected federal official, and thus it is STILL his job to be actively engaged in the national political dialogue). Our fashionable commentator launched into a low-intensity rant about Kerry's style during the campaign. He marched out all the tired accusations of the Bush campaign... "Kerry is a waffler"... "No one can tell what Kerry stands for"... "No one knows what Kerry is talking about"... etc., ad nauseum. Somehow his annoyance with Kerry's style justifies Glass' stated desire that Kerry no longer appear in the media.

NPR has the reputation (increasingly less deserved) of being the home of objective, fact-based, and complex coverage of current events and politics. Sure... they have their share of partisan pundits, but usually these talking heads make an effort to sound just a little bit more intelligent. After all, it would be a very foolish mistake to underestimate the perceived demographics of NPR. The whole idea of public-supported radio is that it is able to avoid the soundbyte journalism of the commercial networks and cable television. So it was with great disappointment that I heard Glass deliver his manifesto against Kerry.

It occurs to me that the United States has the president it deserves... and not just because the populace inexplicably re-elected one of the worst presidents in modern times. The sad fact is that the average American seems to require a leader that speaks like a thirteen-year-old. I was extremely alarmed when I read that our crusading commander-in-chief uttered the words "I don't do nuance." Though it was by no means unexpected. Dubya isn't known for his eloquence of speech or thought. That's not to say that his proclamations are reflective of the nature of his administration. The byzantine nature of the policies and machinations of the federal executive branch should be obvious to all. But evidently the American public does not want to hear about (or is not prepared to understand) such complexities. Maybe Ira Glass is right.

Personally, I found it refreshing that we were offered a candidate that didn't think it necessary to reduce the world's population to "evil-doers" and "freedom-lovers". The problem with Kerry wasn't his elaborate references or his nuanced positions. My frustration with his campaign was that he pulled his punches. He should have deconstructed Bush's "Us vs. Them" mentality. Perhaps he could have been a bit more direct in stating the problems inherent in that worldview. Maybe Ira Glass is right. Maybe the US is a nation of idiots. But then that raises the question..."Just who is Ira Glass talking to?"

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