July 14, 2011

A Quickie: Casey Anthony, Betty Ford, and Politics

"Quickies" like this one will become regular features on the blog -- short and (maybe) sweet comments about... anything. (I was going to say "weekly feature" before my fear of commitment kicked in.)

So, a quickie.

The Casey Anthony Trial 
I gave this media circus virtually no attention. But millions of others seemed mesmerized by it.

The day of the verdict, the usual pundit panel was discussing the case (OK, I watched a little). One of the panelists suggested that the trial wouldn't have generated the same attention if the child had been black. A moment of stunned silence followed, as the other panelists recovered from this unexpected truth-telling.

Betty Ford's Death
If only today's pre-programmed, scripted politicians could learn from comments in the obits for Mrs. Ford.

Her genuineness and candor were remarkable enough in the 1970s. Today, they're virtually unthinkable.
The obituaries supplied many examples of her marvelous forthrightness. My favorite came during her interview on CBS's "60 Minutes," when she was asked what she'd do if her 16-year-old daughter came to her and said she was having an affair. "Well, I wouldn't be surprised," Mrs. Ford said. "I think she's a perfectly normal human being." As if that weren't enough, she suggested that premarital sex might cut the divorce rate. She also said that marijuana experimentation by that era's youth was like "your first beer or your first cigarette."

There are many more examples of what we'd now call "politically incorrect" comments. The result? Alert for today's politicians: Her forthrightness was a key reason she became one of the most popular first ladies ever.

The Washington Post's political columnist summed up Ms. Ford's legacy this way:
"She was saying: You're not going to program me, and I'm not going to weigh every single word I say for its political effect."
If only today's politicians would emulate Betty Ford's attitude.  Won't happen.

This Recovering Alcoholic Is Now Also A Recovering Political News Junkie

Until this year, I spent hours devouring political news-- reading most of the editorials and columnists in the The Washington Post and the New York Times, watching the PBS News Hour every night and many of the political talk shows, reading most anything about politics appearing in my Newsweek and New Yorker  magazines, and talking politics a lot.

But this year, my interest has dropped in inverse proportion to the increasing political stalemate with all the players repeating the same slogans ad nauseum. Why should I waste time now reading about the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination when the convention is a year away and the first primaries are six months off?

I hate being reminded of all the time and money that will be spent on the election, which will end up generating an even greater stalemate when Obama gets re-elected and the Republicans take over the Senate (and increase their House majority).

The final straw for me came last month when it was reported that Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership had decided to avoid votes on controversial (i.e., meaningful) legislation for the remainder of the session, fearing that such votes might jeopardize the re-election prospects for the Democratic senators whose terms end next year.

So with two wars costing megabucks and many lives, a painfully slow recovery from the worst recession since the Great Depression, and an impending budget crisis, the leaders of the majority party in the Senate have decided not to take up any meaningful legislation. And in the House,  the leadership, also more worried about the 2012 election than about today's serious problems, has adopted a "no new taxes" rigidity that transcends the give-and-take compromises needed to move ahead.

It's clear that both parties agree on one thing: only elections matter. If nothing happens between elections, so be it.

Why waste time tuning into the sideshow?

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