Friday, September 26, 2008

In the Camera's Eye

Obama and McCain appear so preoccupied with trying to maintain a presidential image without getting muddied by the political debate over Henry Paulson’s Credit Market Bailout Plan, they probably have forgotten that they will be squaring off on the anniversary of the very first televised presidential debate. That one took place on September 26, 1960 between the very photogenic John Kennedy and the very stiff and sweaty Richard Nixon.

No one really understood the importance of television in presidential politics back then - a lesson which was quickly learned and exploited by future candidates. The Internet is now the new frontier for political campaigns of all sorts. Even Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke have to posture for the cameras, the audience of American citizens being as important to them as members of Congress.

This is so much the better for American Democracy. Freedom and justice for all might just as well be “transparency and accountability” for all with cameras and microphone as our weapons.

The problem is that even though it may be glaringly apparent when politicians and officials are posturing before the cameras, citizens are often unable to follow through with the appropriate punishment for such bad behavior. This past week we may have observed some success as lawmakers received an earful from constituents who had listened to Paulson and Bernanke appear before Congress asking for a $700 billion handout - a nearly unfathomable sum for most who walk Main Street but have never set foot on Wall Street.

American capitalism may have skidded temporarily off the road, but it appears American democracy is still on track.

No comments: