Diverting Attention From Politics

Dan Boylan
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Wednesday - December 05, 2007
| Del.icio.us

Football’s not my sport: too many time outs, too much huddling, too many appeals of calls on the field - just too slow.

But I must admit that the past couple of weeks the University of Hawaii football hysteria has gotten to me. Oh, I haven’t purchased a No. 15 green T-shirt, nor would I name a child born this season Colt - but Mr. Brennan is an admirable and talented young man as are those young men who protect him and those who catch his passes.

And how about that defense? So I’ve watched the games on ESPN and hooted on occasion in front of the television set. June Jones’Warriors have enlivened my holiday season.

So too will six different Christmas parties, the University’s Rainbow Classic basketball tournament, several Oscar-aspiring movies that are released this time of year, and a New Year’s Eve bash at which I always have one or two or ... too many. The following day there will be sobering to endure and I will probably do it in front of a television set, watching games about which I care not a whit - unless UH is in the Sugar Bowl.

It will be fun, diverting, maybe even exciting.

Two days after New Year’s, in the state of Iowa, Republicans and Democrats will gather in their respective caucuses to vote for a presidential candidate. By the morning after, it will be clear that some candidacies will die; some may gain new life; others will be wounded, perhaps mortally.

What happens on Jan. 3 in Iowa matters: for the candidates, for the country, and - given the power and reach of the United States - for the world.

But we’re already bored by it, assuming that we had any interest to begin with. We’ve allowed the media talking heads (people like me, on a much bigger stage drawing a much larger salary) and opposing campaign spokesmen to do the work for us and, in order to fill the endless airtime during a seemingly endless campaign, they’ve been more than willing to oblige.

We’ve heard it all: “Obama’s too inexperienced.” “Hillary’s too calculating.” “Edwards is a haircut.” “Biden talks too much.”

Or, of the Republicans: “Romney’s a flip-flopper.” “Giuliani can’t bring out the party base.” “McCain’s lost his magic.” “Thompson’s been a disappointment.” “Huckabee’s too socially conservative.”

So, in lieu of giving the candidates a serious look, giving them a chance to make their case, we fall back on our prejudices and grab the candidate who fits them best.

In doing so, we shirk our civic duty - and this year we do so at our peril.

And the peril of others. In the November issue of Vanity Fair, columnist Christopher Hitchens writes of a young Army lieutenant named Mark Daily who died in Iraq earlier this year. As a college student, Daily had had reservations about the Iraq war, but a column by Hitchens, who has until recently supported Bush’s policies there, helped persuade Daily to volunteer for the military.

Hitchens writes movingly of the young man’s patriotism, of his desire to make the world a safer place for the Iraqis and his own family, of his decency and honor and courage. But, at 21, Daily is gone.

That should bother us a great deal. It certainly unsettles me. Two of my students will deploy for Iraq soon after the end of this semester. Both are terrific young men, and it scares the hell out of me that they’re going. All I can offer them is a weak admonition: “Keep your head down.”

Iraq leads the list of reasons why we should pay close attention this presidential year, but there are so many, many others: global warming, the nation’s healthcare crisis, our dependency on foreign oil, the United States’low repute abroad, the yawning gap between rich and poor.

And we can’t allow the media and opposition spinners to make our decisions for us. On the Democratic side, John Edwards has been largely dismissed - before the first primary is held. But I watched an hourlong interview with him recently and found him bright, thoughtful and very quick on his feet. He should not be dismissed.

Neither should John McCain. Seven years ago McCain was probably the finest man and the most independent politician running for the presidency on either ticket. He may still be, yet many Republicans have dismissed him as too old and wrong on immigration. They should give him another, closer look.

But there are the games and the parties and endless diversions of the season, so we probably won’t.

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