Joe Klein has a really admirable column in Time magazine this week. It's not often--in fact, almost never--that you hear pundits from big news organizations acknowledging their own role in the political process. This role is usually damaging--an obsession with theatrics, ginned-up "scandals" and general inanity that rewards campaigns for doing inane things.
Before the Indiana and North Carolina primary, Klein watched Clinton's pandering on the gas tax with a mix of disapproval for the idiocy of the proposal but reflexive admiration for her audaciousness in suggesting it:
"It seemed like smart politics too. It was the kind of thing I have seen "work" throughout my nearly 40-year career as a journalist, an era that coincided neatly with the rise of consultant-driven flummery: you could fool most of the people most of the time."
But then Obama won North Carolina and came far closer than anyone excepted in Indiana. To his credit, Klein sees that this was not only a triumph of Obama's more adult style of campaign over Clinton's "reliance on the same-old"--but also a rebuke to the kind of campaign that the media is trying to give us, one that is all about flag pins and pastors instead of the war, the economy, etc:
"In the end, Obama's challenge to the media is as significant as his challenge to McCain. All the evidence — and especially the selection of these two apparent nominees — suggests the public not only is taking this election very seriously but is also extremely concerned about the state of the nation and tired of politics as usual. I suspect the public is also tired of media as usual, tired of journalists who put showmanship over substance ... as I found myself doing in the days before the May 6 primaries."
And then this:
"our knee-jerk reactions — our prejudice toward performance values over policy — could infect the campaign to come between Obama and John McCain, just as it has the primaries.... A general-election campaign between John McCain and Barack Obama doesn't need any hype. It won't be boring. The question is whether we, politicians and press alike, will grant this election — and electorate — the respect that it deserves."
More like this, please.