Politics and other four-letter words
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Years ago I worked an internship at a place called The Heritage Foundation, a right-leaning political think-tank, that in those days was run out of an old brownstone on Capitol Hill. I was part of a program called The National Journalism Center, whose stated task was to put young conservatives into journalism.
This was before the emergence of right-wing screamers like Ann Coulter, who years later would be a fellow graduate of that very same program, lowered the level of rational political debate. This was even before FOX News. Ronald Reagan had just unpacked his bags at the White House. A Moonie-run newspaper called The Washington Times was the darling of conservatives.
I always wondered how I got in. I was raised to be a good FDR Democrat by my grandparents, in a neighborhood where people went to mass on Sunday, served their country, took the civil-service exam, supported their union, and voted Democrat. I do not even remember meeting a Republican until college.
But there I was, being lectured to by conservative academics during the day and learning how to sip martinis and talk about the liberal media in the evening. I was a spy in the house of love. The experience left me unable to look at national politics any other way than through the fun-house lens of my youthful experience. With that in mind . . .
• Why has it become standard operating procedure to end political commercials with those insipid tags. “My name is (fill in the blank, and mostly they truly are blanks) and I approve of this message.” Can’t we just assume you approved of it, since your campaign paid for it?
• There should be some sort of bad political karma when you use the same tactics of the people who successfully used the politics of slime against you in your last campaign.
• I get angry at the cynical idea that running for president needs to involve a strategy where very smart people count on their fellow Americans being dumb enough to fall for it. This is the plan, make no mistake.
• For a while I was thinking that racism was actually not going to rear its ugly head. That was before Colin Powell went on “Meet the Press” and endorsed Obama. The next morning I had not even finished my coffee when someone I am working with on a project called. We spoke about the project and because he is a Republican I mentioned Powell. He was quick to tell me it was a black thing.
• Can we all start with the assumption that whoever becomes the next president will raise taxes? You didn’t really believe Dick Cheney when he said that the war would pay for itself through Iraqi oil sales, did you? So now the bill is due and you can add the Wall Street bailout to the tab. Exactly how do you think we pay for those things?
• In the greatest country in the world, should kids go to bed hungry? Should kids be able to go to the doctor when we get sick? Should kids be able to go to sleep with a roof over their heads? Providing those things has always seemed to me to be the very least we can do as a nation. Does that make me a socialist?
– John Stanton is a writer and documentary filmmaker on Nantucket.