Wednesday, August 27, 2008

PBS Convention Coverage

I want to take some time out to say how much I've been enjoying PBS' coverage of the DNC. Unlike CBS and Katie Couric (whom I love), or MSNBC and Keith Obermann and Chris Matthews (and seriously, why are these two sitting outside? Was MSNBC too cheap to set up a real studio for them?), PBS' correspondents are calm, collected, and dissect the speeches given from a historical perspective -due to their team of historians- and a more modern perspective of what this means now. Because they are not a commercial news station, I get to see more of the actual speeches. I'm not missing anything due to the talking heads having to comment on it and quickly get back. There is a languid pace to PBS' coverage that seems both more stimulating and less excitable. They aren't screaming (though to be fair to Chris Matthews, that may be a wind factor), and they generally aren't making blanket statements either. They're just cool, in an extremely factual, moderately tempered, and kind of nerdy way.

There is one thing I wish hadn't been said though. After Hillary's speech, there was some discussion going down about its content; and the correspondents were pretty evenly split about if it was excellent or just good, and if it did enough for Obama or if she fell short. Both sides made great points, and I truly enjoyed the discussion (though I fell on the side of "She did great"). But then one of the historians said that she should have put something in there about "finding religion" as a way of dismissing her earlier criticisms of Obama's readiness to lead or to answer that 3 A.M. phone call.

No. Just no. Let's not, PBS and other organizations, play to the idea that Barack Obama is the messiah. I say this not because I don't like him. I love Obama, and that is why I am concerned. Barack Obama isn't the messiah. He is an incredibly intelligent, supremely talented, wonderful visionary who is also profoundly human. We can't lose sight of that. We cannot continually believe that Barack Obama is flawless, blameless, or without "original sin" of some kind. Because that will make it all the more difficult for him when he does screw up. And I'm not talking just about this election season. If we want Barack Obama to be as successful a president as possible, we need to acknowledge that the man cannot move mountains. We must understand that he will fail, that failure is a part of life and a part of politics. We have to accept that he will do his very best and hopefully achieve much of what he has set out to do; but due to the nature of the political system, his plans will not be enacted unchanged or unchallenged and at times he may have to acquiesce and compromise and give up on items in his agenda that both he and we his supporters wish he didn't have to.

I want Barack Obama to succeed. I want him to be the best president he can be, and I want the American public to recognize his profound accomplishments. But they won't be able to if they see him as being more than human. He may not be elected if he is seen as more than human, because as petty as it is people enjoy looking at someone roundly praised -and justly praised- and thinking, "He's not so great". We cannot allow this to happen. Hillary Clinton should not state she has found religion in Barack Obama. First, she should not because she already has a religion; as does Obama. And secondly, it only further highlights and extends this idea that Obama is worthy of being a figure of religious devoutness. He is not; even George Washington was not above being torn down and reminded of his humanity during his presidency. If Obama is to ascend to that highest level of American politics, we must wait to deify him until after his two terms are served. Otherwise, we run a far greater risk than if we allowed him to be fallible but still bound for greatness.


John said...

I agree that Barack Obama is decidedly not the Messiah, and that fostering an image of him as such is bad for everyone. I wouldn't have wanted Hillary Clinton to say anything that would make that implication.

That said, I thought her speech seemed to be focused first on her and her supporters, with Obama's merits a distant second. A friend suggested that she did this to force Barack to either deliver on her promises or risk losing the backing of her supporters. If so, that is a bit insidious for a party that has supposedly become so loyal and united. If not, it still seemed a bit too focused on "If I Ran the Circus." The other speakers I managed to hear over the course of the day (such as Dennis Kucinich, who had more energy than any 20 people in attendance)seemed to present a more united democratic message. But then again (in yet another reference to last night,) I also had to put up with drunken townies singing karaoke while I struggled to hear Senator Clinton speak.

petpluto said...

I thought her speech struck a balance. I loved that she explained why she had run for president, and then asked whether or not her supporters were only for her or for her issues. I thought that was the best way to make the case for Obama and to turn her angry constituents away from voting for McCain. She pretty much declared that those who voted for her should vote for Barack Obama because he cares about the same issues that she fought to represent, and that John McCain did not.

That said, I do think she could have gone more into who Barack Obama is as a person and what he does for the national landscape as a whole, but I think her speech had to, first and foremost, be about the issues and why John McCain doesn't deserve Democratic votes.