Nitpicking for Fun and Profit...
We've had two presidential debates in the past week and a half (One between Kerry and Bush and the other between Cheney and what appears to be a potted plant), and we've heard fairly broad arguments about foreign policy, especially in the WOT (War on Terror), and Iraq. Both sides, in my opinion made mistakes, both in presenting their cases and in sending their messages (although Dick Cheney, as usual, made a brilliant argument for his man's stands).
However, when we go to television to the pointy-headed people we call "pundits" (asshole cannot be used on television), we get nit-picking reviews and precious little analysis.
Instead of explaining just how Kerry could be for and against something at the same time, we get semantic arguments over what definition of the word "global" Kerry intended to convey. Instead of someone making the case that while Bush may be inarticulate, we get very little news about the consistency of his ideas. We go back and forth with accusations of lying, most of it based on suspect statistics and the parsing of words. Need to speak clearly about what troubles the nation faces? Bring up the Veep's gay daughter and change the subject to something most Americans could give a damn about. Want serious questions on policy and viable alternatives? Look elsewhere please. We only criticize (when we aren't actually attempting to pass the current policy of our opponents off as our own, only with style), we never suggest a corrective.
Ask a candidate a direct question, expecting a direct answer? Sorry, we have to hit every talking point and we have no time to make logical arguments. Your man (or men) loses out in debates? Sorry, we can't take that into account -- we have to spin like tops at the moment.
There are two fundamental problems, in my opinion, about the way these sorts of things are reported and analyzed. First, there is the assumpton by the punditocracy that the average American doesn't understand what's being said to them anyway, so why bother. Secondly, we're really here to talk inside baseball and can't be bothered to make an effort to clarify or expound on what the "little people" just heard.
We can yack about Dick Cheney's lack of personality all night. We can praise John-and-John's hair all week. We can make fun of the president for using the wrong word at the wrong time or mangling the pronunciation of the right word, for the next month.
The real story is this: in 27 days we are going to have an election. It is generally estimated that a significant segment of the population has not decided who to vote for yet (around 10% this time around). That they haven't decided is symptomatic of three things: 1) they're not interested in politics, even when it should be important to their lives, 2) they have attention spans measured in MPH and 3) perhaps some have become so cynical about politicians that that sometimes they need to be reminded about their civic duty or the effect upon their own lives that choosing the wrong man might have.
I would vote for #3 as being the primary reason why there are so many undecided swing-voters. They haven't made up their mind about which man is the lesser of two evils (in their worldview). They need to be educated, and the media is dropping the ball by spending an inordinate amount of time on icing, and neglecting the cake.
I haven't watched a pointy-head show for the last week, and this is why. I know what both candidates have said. I know what they both mean (even if it wasn't artfully conveyed). I care not for a haircut. I could give a tinker's cuss about "nuances". I don't give a good Goddamn about "flash polls" or "focus groups" or "internals". I want information, and very few people are providing it.