We’re having a ‘serious conversation’ over the issues!

August 15, 2012

Part of my job involves going on TV to talk about American politics. And so I've been present for a number of discussions about the impact Paul Ryan is going to have on the 2012 presidential race. So far, they've mostly played out according to the same basic script: "We can finally have a serious conversation about the issues!"

I think Jon Stewart had the right response to this:

Because of Paul Ryan? As the media, couldn't you have made it a serious discussion about the issues from the start? Or did a gypsy put a curse on you? 'Hello, media! You will babble [nonsense] until a sad-eyed man from the North country is chosen by a Mormon!'

I'd simply add that whatever their faults, the two campaigns have been engaged in a serious conversation over the issues. As much as it's been about anything, this election has focused on extremely disparate, consequential budget plans and what they'd mean for jobs, the deficit, etc. It's also had its share of ridiculous gaffes and absurd attacks. But Romney is running on a platform that, though it lacks important details and relies on overly ambitious targets, is definitely a clear vision of the general direction he'd take the country. Obama's platform is less radical, and much more detailed.

In my experience, you're actually getting a more serious conversation over the issues if you listen directly to the two campaigns than if you're reading about the campaign as filtered through much of the media. I mean, here's the most recent speech Obama gave. It's almost all policy. And here's the most recent speech on Mitt Romney's Web site. It, too, is mostly policy. Even the attack ads are about Medicare!

Now, these speeches and ads aren't always polite. They're not even always accurate. But this is what a serious campaign looks like. And it's up to the media to cover it that way. So no more meta-serious conversing! If you want a serious conversation about the two campaigns' Medicare plans and you have the good fortune to be speaking on a national television program, just say some serious things about the plans!

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