“Stupid is as stupid does.” – why so many Americans are ignorant about politics

Watch the Republican debate last night? Learn much about economic issues, the supposed focus of the debate? Didn’t think so.


The substance of the debate was equivalent to this Onion news item: “Eerie: These Two Strangers, Thousands Of Miles Apart, Have Almost The Exact Same Initials”

The inanity and vacuousness of so much political news coverage today is frightening and candidates are part of the problem.

Consider these shallow, uninformative stories that ran recently in major media:

“Mike Tyson wants to see Trump in the White House”

“Supergirl” star responds to Jeb Bush calling her hot”

“GOP is like ‘Grumpycat’, Obama says”

Then we have politicians of all stripes all the way up to the president presenting their views on incredibly complex issues with 140 character tweets and Americans making voting decisions based on those misleading, one-sided tidbits.

Add to this noise the editorials and news stories about non-issues or that are so one-sided and without context that they are a waste of time to read.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel, for example, just ran an editorial calling on Senator Rubio to resign because he has missed a lot of Senate votes during his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. The Washington Post ran a follow-up article on what it called the “ferocious” editorial. Nightly network news highlighted the issue last night, too, but none of them bothered to provide any context for the reader or noted that voting record accusations are a common campaign tactic of little relevance.

Had any of the media bothered to do any research, they would have found that Senator Barack Obama missed votes TWICE as often during the 2008 campaign’s early going, and Hillary Clinton ended up doing even worse!

In the final quarter of 2007, leading up to the Iowa Caucuses and New Hampshire Primary, Obama missed 89.4 per cent of his opportunities to vote, while Clinton, in hot pursuit for the Democratic presidential nomination, missed 83.5 per cent.

Then there’s the issue of whether anybody really cares about missed Senate votes.

As Politico reported today, “Going after Rubio that way was just a mistake,” said one of Bush’s donors. “No one cares about missed f–king votes in the Senate. Washington cares about that. The media cares about that. And losing candidates care about that. Jeb sounded like he was losing. And Marco made him pay.”

And, of course, there are the endless horse-race stories showing this candidate up or that candidate down in the polls and offering nothing more of substance.

In the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, for example, a study released by the Pew Research Center found that the media offered Americans relatively little information about the candidates’ records or what they would do if elected, with 63% of the campaign stories focused on political and tactical aspects compared to just 17% that focused on the personal backgrounds of the candidates, 15% that focused on the candidates’ ideas and policy proposals and just 1% of stories that examined the candidates’ records or past public performance. It has likely gotten even worse since then.

And of course there’s a mind-numbing amount of “gaffe” coverage, particularly online. When a candidate says something that could be portrayed as a gaffe, critics of all stripes jump on it, trying to magnify its importance and reach and generate public alarm about it.

And even if you try to take politics seriously, the media and the candidates often treat it all as mere entertainment, more like the contest on The Voice or the Great Race.

For the media, and too many politicians, it’s all theater, all razzle-dazzle, as Billy Flynn, the silver-tongued lawyer in “Chicago”, so aptly put it.

“It’s all a circus, kid,” Flynn said. “A three ring circus…the whole world – all showbusiness.”


With the news diet that’s fed to them, it’s no wonder Americans are so ill-informed about politics. The result? We get the politicians the 1 percent pay for.














Dear Carly: let’s talk

Dear Carly,

Carly Fiorina at the Sept. 16 GOP debate

Carly Fiorina at the Sept. 16 GOP debate

You’re probably feeling pretty good right now about your much-praised performance at the marathon Republican debate on Sept. 16. But before you settle in with a self-congratulatory attitude that you must have done everything right, let’s talk about what you said about dealing with Vladimir Putin.

“Having met Vladimir Putin, I wouldn’t talk to him at all. We’ve talked way too much to him,” you said defiantly, when the discussion turned to foreign policy. “Russia is a bad actor…”

Your campaign then doubled down, sending out a tweet, “Putin won’t listen to talk. We need leadership and resolve. Pitch in $3. Carlyforpresident.com/debate”

Wrong, Carly. Wrong.

That kind of blunt rhetoric may be red meat to the crowd, but it’s a simplistic, wrongheaded and potentially dangerous approach to foreign policy.

Despite their antipathy to communism and hostility toward the Soviet Union, Republican Presidents Nixon and Ford and Democrat Carter all talked with their Soviet adversaries and signed strategic-arms limitation agreements with the Soviet Union.

Though he denounced the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” Reagan kept open the lines of communication. Should Reagan, often praised for bringing the Cold War to an end, not have talked to the Soviets?

President Ronald Reagan visiting Berlin in 1987, where he said, "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

President Ronald Reagan visiting Berlin in 1987, where he said, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

As Strobe Talbott, who served as Deputy Secretary of State from 1994-2001, said, in his efforts to drive the Soviet Union to a more accommodating direction, Reagan emerged “as an archpragmatist and operational optimist who adjusted his own attitudes and conduct in order to encourage a new kind of Kremlin leader.”

Sure, there are times when talking or negotiating with adversaries is the wrong move. But refusing to talk with an adversary under any circumstances is not a viable option.

In the Cuban missile crisis, for example, had President Kennedy obstinately refused to negotiate with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, a nuclear war might have been the outcome.

President Kennedy addressing the nation on the Cuban missile crisis

President Kennedy addressing the nation on the Cuban missile crisis

Would we really be better off today if President Nixon and Henry Kissinger had refused to talk with Chinese leaders and, instead, tried to isolate China and keep it from the world stage?

President Richard Nixon toasts with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in February 1972 in Beijing

President Richard Nixon toasts with Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in February 1972 in Beijing

Foreign policy experts argue that America’s 21st century “War on terror” has overemphasized military responses and ignored the potential of diplomacy and that this had had “profound effects in misdirecting American power, alienating allies and discrediting worthy goals, including democratization and development.”

“Diplomacy include coercion and threats,” the experts note, “but it also requires discussion and room for bargaining between participants.”

So, before you get too far down this anti-talk road, take a breather and look at history. America will be best served by a president who acknowledges that we need to engage the world’s nations, both our allies and our adversaries. As John Donne put it so simply and eloquently:

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.


Thanks for your time,


Bill MacKenzie