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Campaign is gut-check time for media

Citizen Staff Writer

Scenes from the U.S. presidential campaign so far show lots of contradictions and lack of clarity.

We must ask on that basis if the media are doing their jobs in digging into the stands of the top two candidates on the important issues of the day.

As a diversion, let’s juxtapose some criticisms of them, stands taken by them and interpretations of what they are saying.

• Democrat Barack Obama is too inexperienced to be president, some say. Republican John McCain is too old to be president, others say.

The 71-year-old McCain’s age has earned him the backing of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is one month younger than McCain and desirous of not being the oldest national leader in the Group of Eight industrial countries.

Because of his inexperience, Obama, who is 46, has the backing of actor Robert de Niro, 64, who said in February that the candidate “does not have the experience to let the special interests run the government.”

• McCain has no clearer idea how to end the war in Iraq than President Bush’s ongoing failure there (never mind that the United States is “winning” the war because of the surge; he and McCain see U.S. troops there for a long time, and there’s still little hint of achieving the original goal: democracy in Iraq).

Obama has a solution – troop withdrawal over the next year to 18 months – that could very well throw the region into world-threatening chaos.

• Obama thinks higher taxes for some can boost the struggling economy. McCain thinks extending current tax cuts past 2010 can stimulate the economy.

Neither idea is the best, and neither candidate has much in the way of economic acumen; at least McCain admits it. Obama wants to fiddle too much with the free market, the reason we are a prosperous nation.

• McCain let a supporter use the word “bitch” in a question to him about how to beat Hillary Clinton, and he responded, “That’s an excellent question.” Obama has had to deny that his wife used the word “whitey” from a church pulpit.

Some point to these as issues related to character. Baloney! Is this fourth grade? Can we get past this sort of silliness to some real issues?

We can only hope for civil debate on the aforementioned economy, health care, immigration and other relevant and important issues.

The news media can drive the candidates and the country toward that, if we choose.

Or, we – led by cable TV news and sheepishly followed by many in the print media – can continue to highlight pettiness and the misspeak du jour.

The former role for the media is certainly preferred, for the sake of our democratic society.

All should hope we have the fortitude and resolve to do it.

Reach Michael A. Chihak at 573-4646 or mchihak@tucsoncitizen.com.

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