Editiorial - We deserve better
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 08:10
Did Joe Biden smile too much? How will Paul Ryan’s anecdote about the bean-shaped embryo of his daughter poll with independent voters in the key battleground states? Who "won" the debate?
These are some of the questions that dominated the pundit-led discussion following Thursday night’s vice presidential debate.
Our media’s obsession with winning and losing and the petty nuances of the candidates’ demeanors, as opposed to the substance and honesty underlying their arguments, underscores the increasingly hollow nature of our public discourse.
Does the quantity of water Paul Ryan drank during the debate have any relevance whatsoever to his ability to serve as vice president? No? Then why was this trivial topic discussed after the debate?
The press has a responsibility to hold the candidates accountable after these debates by thoroughly fact-checking their statements. Biden and Ryan made sharply contradictory statements concerning a variety of issues including Medicare, the state of the economy and the recent terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. When the candidates utter such differing statements on matters of fact, one of them isn’t telling the truth. So why, then, is our media wasting the valuable opportunity to set the record straight by instead debating the political implications of it all?
This ratings-driven obsession with the horse-race and disregard for accountability only contributes to the polarization of our population and our government.
According to a recent Pew poll, this polarization is at its highest point in decades, and there can be no questioning that it has contributed to the political gridlock in Washington, which is also at historic levels.
The Daily Athenaeum had the opportunity to sit down with Sen. John D. Rockefeller last week to discuss Congress’s unprecedented inability to get things done. Sen. Rockefeller lamented that the current Congress’s paralysis is worse than anything he has seen throughout his 25-year career in the Senate. To illustrate this, Rockefeller described the frustration he faced when trying to compromise with Republicans on the health care reform bill.
Even though there were individuals on the Republican side who believed in the necessity of health care reform and wanted to vote for the bill, they were ultimately pressured to vote against it by a party leadership hell-bent on obstructing the president, even if it meant preventing action on an issue they all agreed needed to be dealt with. This anecdote illustrates everything that is wrong with our political system.
We need our leaders on both sides of the aisle to understand there are times when disingenuous political rhetoric needs to be set aside for the good of our country.
However, when our politicians know their feet won’t be held to the fire if they stretch the truth, they will not hesitate to conjure convenient "facts" that make their opponents look bad.
And when our politicians can’t even agree on the facts – at least publicly– how can we expect them to work together behind closed doors?