November 25, 2007

Of horse races and media

Mark Halperin apologizes. Sort of.

For most of my time covering presidential elections, I shared the view that there was a direct correlation between the skills needed to be a great candidate and a great president. The chaotic and demanding requirements of running for president, I felt, were a perfect test for the toughest job in the world.

But now I think I was wrong. The “campaigner equals leader” formula that inspired me and so many others in the news media is flawed.
Ya think?
So if we for too long allowed ourselves to be beguiled by “What It Takes” — certainly not the author’s fault — what do those of us who cover politics do now? After all, Mr. Cramer’s style of campaign coverage is alluring in an election season that features so many candidates with heroic biographies and successful careers in and out of politics. (Not to mention two wide-open races.)

Well, we pause, take a deep breath and resist. At least sometimes.
Sometimes? How about all the time?
In the face of polls and horse-race maneuvering, we can try to keep from getting sucked in by it all.
As Yoda would say, "There is no 'try' there is only 'do.' "
We should examine a candidate’s public record and full life as opposed to his or her campaign performance. But what might appear simple to a voter can, I know, seem hard for a journalist.
WHY? Isn't this your damn job???
If past is prologue, the winners of the major-party nominations will be those who demonstrate they have what it takes to win. But in the short time remaining voters and journalists alike should be focused on a deeper question: Do the candidates have what it takes to fill the most difficult job in the world?
And exactly whose full-time job is it to do this? If I, with my full-time non-journalist job, family, and extra-curricular activities can do this, why the hell can't you? We count on you to give us information gathered from a multitude of sources, and you let us down every time.

Spare me the navel gazing and get to work.

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