NEWS

Editorial: For Election '08, crazy comes out of the closet

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

America is a little insane right now.

There's evidence of it in election letters to the editor, some of which scream in all capital letters -- exclamation points everywhere -- and repeat wild accusations of one sort or another that have been picked up from some obscure blog or e-mail out of the blue, but which are unquestioningly accepted as gospel. In case you think we're only talking about Barack Obama, Sarah Palin has taken her share of hits, too, though they tend not to take on such an "end of the world" tone.

The eagerness of some to believe there's some conspiracy in the works is reminiscent of the paranoia that existed during the Cold War. You get it from both the right and the left. Could the "mainstream media" - MSM, for short, always uttered with a snarl - possibly be covering for both Barack Obama and George W. Bush simultaneously, depending on your point of view?

Meanwhile, cable television commentator Sean Hannity runs a hit piece on Obama and uses Andy Martin of Chicago as his primary source to accuse Obama of training for "a radical overthrow of the government" and to compare him to Venezuela's loony leader Hugo Chavez. That would be the lawsuit-giddy, anti-Semitic, Holocaust-sympathizing, too-psychologically-questionable-for-admission-as-an-attorney-to-the-Illinois-Bar, chronic-candidate-for-public-office Andy Martin, according to multiple published reports. Did a Fox News that ostensibly wishes to be viewed as credible not vet Martin with anyone in Illinois at all? If Hannity's goal was to come off as shrill and desperate, he succeeded.

While Obama is getting the brunt of the irrational crowd's attention right now - he's a secret Muslim, the anti-Christ from the biblical Book of Revelation, won't recite the Pledge of Allegiance, etc. - McCain is not immune. Heard the "Manchurian Candidate" rumor? Allegedly McCain was brainwashed as a POW, which brought on an early senility and, for all anyone knows, forced him to father a black child out of wedlock - a smear started by Republicans, by the way, back in 2000. Who but the maniacal could make these fictions up, and who but the ultra-malleable would believe them?

Maybe it's full-moon fever, or maybe the wildly gyrating stock market has just put Americans in a state of mass hysteria. When people don't feel in control of their destinies, some go stark-raving mad. Whatever the case, the injuries we are inflicting are not on the candidates but on ourselves.

First, the craziness keeps good people from running for public office. Why expose yourself to such slander?

Second, even in endorsement interviews trying to drag specifics out of the candidates on any given issue can really be a chore. Why? Because many are scared to death to tell voters the truth -- that they can't have it all, that low taxes and a government that is there for them in every conceivable circumstance are mutually exclusive goals, that we have to live within our means, that choices must be made -- because those who do inevitably get punished at the polls.

In effect, we demand that they lie to us. This nation has had back-to-back presidents spanning 16 years in the Oval Office who have taken serious liberties with the truth. Have we had enough yet? And why do we expect more from our politicians than we do from ourselves?

Take the current financial meltdown. The seeds of that were planted in the Carter, Reagan, Clinton and Bush II administrations. Between the fling-the-doors-wide-open-to-home-ownership Democrats and the no-regulation-is-good-regulation Republicans, there is ample blame to go around. So why is only one side to blame? And why is it always everybody else's fault? Who's responsible for our own credit card debt but the person looking back at us in the mirror? Nothing is ever that simple, and it's self-deluding to believe that it is.

But simple is what we want, doggonit. Indeed, being informed today is a liability. Dumb is the new smart, so candidates talk down to us, tell us what they think we want to hear, to make themselves seem like one of the gang. It's the bumper sticker "My kid beat up your honor roll student" on steroids, and it's incredibly self-defeating. "We get the leadership we deserve" has never been truer.

So relax. Take a deep breath. The world will survive, no matter who wins the presidency. What is clear, however, is that a steady, stable and soothing hand at the nation's helm is needed as much or more now as ever.

Peoria Journal Star