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Wanted: a rational debate in the midst of a national election.
President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney on Monday.
Pablo M. Monsivais/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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By Ed Jones
WHEN IT COMES to the wild and crazy politics of 2012, we're asking the wrong questions.
Take a listen to the political chitchat of the past few weeks, and you'd hear such head-scratching queries as:
How did that bumbling, gaffe-prone Mitt Romney turn overnight into a world-class debater?
Have we overrated Barack Obama all these years? Was that magical speaker of four years ago just a facade for a wonky academic who can't speak in understandable phrases?
Don't bother trying to answer these questions,
Romney was never a goof-ball bumbler. Sure, he's stuck his foot in his mouth
As for the president, he remains one of the most gifted political communicators in decades, whether or not he spent too much time in the first debate staring at the podium.
His precedent-setting presidency has its roots not just in his race, but in his ability to capture the imagination of Americans to focus on the possibilities--to look beyond the next budget-slashing agreement to what might be.
In short, this presidential election has two accomplished candidates whose life work makes them highly qualified nominees for the presidency.
It's true that recognizing that fortunate state of affairs requires us to step back and assess all the factors that have gone into their political ascents. That's getting harder and harder to do. In the instant-analysis, Twitter-driven world of 2012 communication, we're all beginning to think in shorthand.
That deterioration in our political culture may be one of the biggest problems we're facing this year, despite all the talk about economic Armageddons. We're living in an age of trivialized political discussion.
Maybe when the novelty of the social-media toys begins to wear off, we'll better understand not only their enormous strengths, but also their glaring weaknesses.
Maybe when the cable news networks stop turning their newscasts into opinion-driven ratings-chasers, we'll get back to getting the news straight.
Who would have thought that too much information could have such negative results? It's when you see the Romney "47 percent" quote or the Obama-gazing-at-the-podium shot the 50th time that you realize that what passes for broadcast news has become more of a hypnotic brain-deadener.
How can voters expect to retain some sense of hope for the future or respect for the candidates when the focus is on gotcha games of who messed up today?
All this may sound like unproductive cynicism. But I actually have great hope for the future of political discourse. All we need to do is convince enough people that what they need to know can't be received in 40-character messages.
Ed Jones: 540/374-5401