Longtime center-left-by-left Newsweek reporter Howard Fineman finally snaps awake:
WASHINGTON — In his Senate office, Barack Obama gave pride of place to a famous sports photo: Muhammad Ali (Cassius Clay back then) howling in triumph over the dazed hulk of Sonny Liston, belly-up on the canvas.
Like his boxing hero Ali, Obama is floating like a butterfly — essentially untouched — thus far in his presidential prizefight with Mitt Romney.
And that is not good for anybody: for the country, for the voters, for the political parties or even for Obama and his administration.
If American democracy is to work — if we are to prevent the blood from clotting in the body politic — presidential elections must be real contests over real ideas and real records, informed by real facts.
This campaign hasn’t really been any of those things.
Presidents do not deserve to be reelected by default. If they did, why would anyone expect that a second term to be any better or wiser?
And elected leaders need to be held to account — pinned up against the wall, so to speak — if citizens aren’t to become utterly disillusioned with the idea that we live in a system of democratic self-government.
As someone who came of age during Watergate, the progressive disinterest of the popular mass media in anything much beyond the current vapid parlor game of “fact-checking” opinions has been increasingly troubling to me. Not long ago I would sardonically question whether the alternative to “mainstream” media would of necessity have to be “fringe”. Not any more, not after this year. This year, I have become miserably convinced beyond any further resistance that the Fourth Estate has effectively atrophied into little more than a Third and Seventeen One-Hundredths Estate, or possibly something even more haplessly disengaged.
The right may warn of a drift into socialism and the left may fear militaristic adventurers, but the most imminent threat to the American democratic republic is being delivered right now with cheerful concern by these muppets of the ether, these turtles on posts, curious about nothing more than the latest, self-created narrative of convenience.
What do you think about the limits of free speech, post? For context and balance, of course, we will also be putting these same trenchantly irrelevant questions to the wind and the grasses.
H. M. Stuart