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Issues before ratings

When Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton visited Spokane five weeks ago, the atmosphere was electric. Throngs couldn’t fit into either venue. Many people were drawn to campaigns for the first time.

The evident emotions seemed to validate that this was going to be a special election. Yes, much of the excitement is fueled by the fact that a woman or an African American could ascend to the presidency for the first time. But making race and gender central issues defeats the wonder of it all.

“We think Obama’s the only game in town,” said a man outside the Fox Theater, where Michelle Obama was giving a speech. “We really supported Hillary Clinton, but she voted for the war.”

Said a woman at the West Central Community Center, where Hillary Clinton appeared: “It’s wonderful she came to a real American neighborhood with real American needs like affordable health care and housing.”

Health care. Housing. The war. Those are vital issues that could be greatly affected by whomever the voters choose to lead the nation.

But since the Spokane visit, important issues have been shoved aside by day-to-day distractions that will probably be forgotten on Inauguration Day.

Has John McCain sufficiently distanced himself from the anti-gay, anti-Catholic rhetoric of the Rev. James Hagee, whose endorsement the Arizona senator pursued?

Has Hillary Clinton said enough about the racially charged remarks of former campaign volunteer Geraldine Ferraro?

Has Barack Obama appropriately denounced the foolish and incendiary conspiracy theories of the former pastor of his church, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright?

The media are eagerly fanning these guilt-by-association flames, and it proves once again that what’s good for cable TV news is bad for the country. Preening pundits emerge from makeup rooms to stage shouting matches on the intricacies of “scandal” management.

“He must reject those comments!”

“She must repudiate the remarks!”

“They must reject and repudiate!”

Or else? Or else they won’t shut up.

Are we really going to endure eight more months of this? We’re five years into the war in Iraq. Health care continues to top the list of voters’ domestic worries. The economy seems headed for a recession. And a quick check of the polls shows that those issues remain foremost on voters’ minds.

Is it asking too much to give those issues more face time? Anything less deserves to be rejected and repudiated.


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