Nitpickers: The Political Carrion Fowl

Everybody hates a nitpicker. On October 6th, following the Vice-Presidential debate, ran an opinion piece by John R. Lott, Jr., entitled “Did Biden Get it Wrong? You Betcha,” [] in which Lott points out a laundry list of little mistakes Biden made during the debate and expresses his opinion that the media gave Biden a pass. He then proceeds to go over all the mistakes Sarah Palin has made that have been widely publicized by the “fact check” media.

The debate over the existence of media bias (or its nature) is not really what I want to deal with here. What I do want to look at is this idea of a “fact check” media and its role in the public’s perception of this election.

Personally, I think this obsession really began with Bush and his comical little verbal slip ups. Let’s face it people have a lot of fun making fun of their president and President Bush really gave people plenty of opportunity. Some, however, obsessed over his penchant for verbal missteps, viewing it as an embarrassment and liability for the United States. How many times have you heard someone on television say “I’m tired of having a president who sounds like an idiot” when discussing the election? Often its not that the people think Bush is actually an idiot but they are extremely disturbed that he sounds like one.

This frustration has matured into this new election. Many Democrats will praise Barack Obama because he sounds so distinguished. In the Republican primary one of the most talked about issues was the candidates’ presentation. A national “pet peeve” has seemingly developed regarding presidents who can’t speak correctly or who make “gaffes.”

I find this funny when I think back to the audio recordings of presidents like Teddy Roosevelt, which reveal a man with what can only be described as a comically high and squeaky voice. Teddy would probably have never made it past a congressional district if he ran for office today. Yet even now, one hundred years later, Teddy Roosevelt is still recognized as one of our great presidents. He’s probably the most recent President that both sides can refer to as a great leader without crossing party lines (apparently there is some sort of statute of limitations on partisanship.)

So I want to make a radical claim here and I know I’m going to raise a lot of ire but here I go. I think that a candidate’s ability to present himself or herself and speak without slip ups should be the least significant factor in determining their suitability for office. I think that the MTV generation has flipped its priorities and there is now an inordinate amount of attention focused on the audio and visual presentation of our leaders instead of on how (and where) they will lead our country. I’ll respect anyone who wants to make well though out criticisms of George Bush and his handling of the Iraq War or the War on Terror or the Patriot Act. I will not respect someone who says, “That George Bush is such an idiot. He can’t even say ‘nuclear’ right!”

Our priorities have become seriously muddled. We’ve confused American politics with American Idol and come November 4th we’re all going to pull out our cell-phones to text in our selection for President, only to remember we actually have to get in our cars and drive to the polls.

How old fashioned, right?

We’ve been tricked. We’ve been tricked into thinking this is just some sort of game, that ultimately it’s not really going to make a difference to our lives who becomes the next president, because “they’re all the same” and it’s just a matter of preference. Oh sure, the die-hards don’t think so, the Rush Limbaugh’s and the Oliver Stone’s, but the average ordinary American who knows his TV schedule better than his founding fathers? Let’s be real here. These two men, Barack Obama and John McCain could not be more different. Their decisions are going to change, and in some cases end, lives. This is not about form and presentation. This is about life. This is about America, her people and her future. So stop nitpicking these people and let’s get serious. In less than a month we all have to hunker down and make a choice. You better be damn sure it’s the right one.

-Daniel Noa