September 15, 2008 in Opinion

Our view: Too many important issues to dwell on silly stuff

 

About that lipstick-wearing pig both Barack Obama and John McCain have referenced? Here’s what matters: Pig is pork, and speaking of pork, how did each candidate handle pork while in the U.S. Senate? Did they get stuff for the people back home that helped woo voters but did little for the nation’s well-being?

About the lipstick, here’s what matters: Lipstick is makeup. Makeup and all sorts of other products can endanger the health of consumers if products aren’t properly inspected. China-made pacifiers, anyone? How will each candidate guarantee that products imported into the United States are safe?

A minor eruption happened last week over Obama uttering a much-used cliché – you can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig – and for the record, he wasn’t referring to vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Just as John McCain wasn’t referring to Hillary Clinton when he used the phrase about Clinton’s health care plan during the primary campaigns last year.

Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University, said the campaign’s silly season has begun. During the silly season, minor incidents are blown out of proportion and candidates’ words are drained of context and then refilled with fake outrage.

The silly season. Please, not again!

This presidential election has the potential to go down as one in which issues really mattered. In which candidates spoke about their specific plans to get health care to the uninsured, figure out America’s role in the raging Middle East, take an ax to a federal budget deficit approaching $500 billion.

This presidential election, in sharp contrast to so many in recent years, has the potential to go down as one in which the candidates took the high road. Both have demonstrated an ability to do so. McCain sponsored an ad congratulating Obama for his historic Democratic nomination. He echoed that sentiment in his own acceptance speech and noted that he and Obama have much more in common as loyal Americans than divides them. Obama repeatedly lauds McCain’s military sacrifice and heroism and called it inappropriate to make an issue of Palin’s daughter’s pregnancy, reminding reporters that his own mother had him when she was just 18. And together, the candidates attended Sept. 11 memorial events.

These were not silly actions. Undoubtedly they were weighed for their political value, but so what. Americans are hungry for political leaders who grasp the popular appeal of the high road.

The low road is littered with words taken out of context, with schoolyard bantering – neener, neener – with gotcha politics and swift-boat sensibilities. On the low road, voters stop thinking.

But this year, voters should – and can – be better than that. They can ignore the spinners, the pundits, the guy and gal next door who harp on the misspoken word, the phrase taken out of context, the name-calling. These are distractions only.

Voters must insist on context. Has that pig been federally inspected? Does the lipstick have any lead in it? Voters must ask the tough questions and insist on nuanced answers. That – to use another cliché – is the ticket in this 2008 presidential election.


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