Diversity for Diversity's Sake
The "historic" Democratic presidential primaries of 2008 are kicking in already, and the online announcements of Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have spun the media into a frothy sweet Frappucino of giddiness.
Take ABC, whose Claire Shipman described the emerging Democratic race this way: "Call it Obama wave collides with Clinton juggernaut," a contest between Obama's "fluid poetry" and Hillary's "hot factor" from her "ever-popular" husband. If this piece was in print instead of on television, it would have fallen off the page with all the exclamation points. High-school dance squads have less enthusiasm; high school term papers have less hyperbole.
Let's face it: nobody in the media really waited for the kickoffs to begin in January. News magazines were swooning over Obama and Hillary on their covers last year, advertising their "audacity of hope" for a complete liberal takeover of Washington. Their ardor is never-ending.
The campaigns have just begun, and already, I've had just enough of this pandering. Is being black or being female a qualification, something that makes you a superior president? Or is the election of 2008 going to operate on theme of America being dared to prove it's "ready" to endorse diversity for diversity's sake? The media are already knocking on that thematic door: Is America still too racist or sexist to pick either a black ultraliberal or a female ultraliberal?
Whatever happened to the notion of merit? Or the value of experience? What about ideology? These factors have so far been undervalued in the hype factory.
Badly hidden in all the media's excitement is the belief that America's supposedly still-oppressed and powerless minorities just naturally do things better, or at the very least, should be allowed to man the helm (woman the helm?) because it's their turn. Last week, ABC's "Good Morning America" hosted all 16 female Senators, and Diane Sawyer asked if the world had more women presidents, would the world see less war? The women politicians agreed that they are superior to men in their talent for being collegial and collaborative.
Hillary stepped out and announced women had more "openness to process" and working together. This clashed dramatically with Hillary's interviews on the other networks, where she explicitly advocated cutting off funding for the security details for Prime Minister Maliki and other Iraqi leaders until they cry uncle to American demands. How is that collaboration and collegiality?
Can you imagine someone proposing the Clintons have their Secret Service details axed until they cried uncle in a negotiation? And how quickly would our media treat them as assassin-baiters (not to mention Clinton haters) of the first rank?
Obama's exotic upbringing has been pitched repeatedly as an enormous advantage by the candidate and his media backers. It's all biography, no ideology. Being born in Hawaii and growing up for a while in Indonesia supposedly have made him a better, more empathetic global citizen. He tells reporters he was "greatly influenced by a years-long childhood sojourn in Asia." He even claims his Indonesian upbringing made him especially to sensitive to preventing the alleged threat of a bird flu epidemic.
What about the issues - the real issues like, say this world war against Islamofascism? The one element that's emerged in the Democratic primary goo is the war in Iraq, and how Obama is allegedly superior to Mrs. Clinton since he opposed the war from the beginning (when he was dreaming of fighting bird-flu epidemics in the Illinois state legislature.) But this distorts Hillary's positioning, as if she were as hawkish as Joe Lieberman.
The "Saturday Night Live" satire of a Chris Matthews interview with Hillary captured it perfectly, when the Hillary impersonator stated that most Democrats "understand that my support for the war was always insincere," and if she knew then what she knows now, "I would have never pretended to support it."
So far, this whole Democratic field looks like a motley collection of ultraliberals. Even supposed Southern conservative John Edwards sounds like Dennis Kucinich with a twang. But the media don't see any need for ideological diversity in the Donkey Party.
The last time the GOP race was open in 1999, the media were pressing the Republican Party to move left. In March, the networks were publicizing pro-abortion group ads pressing Elizabeth Dole to stop being so "anti-choice." By May, they were touting Mrs. Dole for boldly taking on the gun-rights lobby.
When and where will the political reporters go looking for pro-life, pro-war, pro-gun Democratic presidential contenders? Forget it. They have zero interest in that kind of diversity among Democrats.