Day By Day

Monday, September 15, 2008


Democrats keep saying that we need to get back to discussion of the issues and stop all this talk about the candidates' personalities, character, and qualifications. Of course, they only want to talk about a few poll-tested "issues" that favor them. But I would argue that it is far more important to focus on the candidates themselves than to pay much attention to the issues. Six months ago everyone and their siblings were absolutely certain that the Iraq war would be the dominating issue of the campaign. A couple of months later it seemed that the mortgage industry collapse would dominate. Then it was going to be gas prices and energy independence. Then it was the resurgence of Russia. Now it is the crisis in world financial markets. What's next? Who knows?

What seemed to be of over-riding importance just a few months ago has now been pushed onto the far back burners, and new issues are moving to the fore constantly. The point is that issues come and go and what is most important is the character and quality of the people who will be responding to them. The focus on the candidates and not the issues is entirely appropriate.

I would, however, issue one caveat. The dirty little secret of electoral politics is that presidents don't really run the country. They are powerful actors, but there are others, most of which are not subject to public scrutiny. An unrelenting focus on the presidency draws attention away from the other actors -- out of control bureaucrats, ideologically driven members of the judiciary, representatives of foreign governments and special interests, etc. who are also major determinants of policy. They deserve just as much attention as the presidential candidates.

Only one candidate, John McCain, has promised to promote transparency in government. One can hope that if elected he can use the bully pulpit to draw aside the veil, to name names [or as he put it "to make them famous"], and to educate the public on just how the nation is managed. One thing is sure, without prodding from the White House, the MSM will blithely ignore or under-report the real operations of government.