To the Editor, Magazine, NYT: 01-14-08
I agree with Noah Feldman, in Vanishing Act (1.13.08 – The Way We Live Now): Iraq has dropped off most political radar screens, however, it is not because the candidates don’t discuss it, but because the news media from which we base our opinions are focusing almost entirely on three Democratic candidates and only certain Republicans. To wit: “At this point, none of the candidates have given detailed, substantive answers to the looming, decisive questions about Iraq that will face the next president the moment he or she takes office.” Elsewhere he discusses the positions of “plausible front runners”, the “absence of disagreement” and yet also offers the possibly opposing answers of two of the candidates on returning troops to Iraq.
There is disagreement among the candidates on what to do in Iraq. Ron Paul wants us out now, Mike Gravel wants us out now, Dennis Kucinich never wanted us to go in, and my favorite candidate, Bill Richardson, actually has said he will bring all the troops home within a year, including those from those permanent military bases the US has been establishing. He wants to begin working on a multinational reconstruction of Iraq. He does not say this lightly, as he has solid diplomatic credentials, is a skilled negotiator and is respected world wide.
This is the essence of the problem: it is the focus of the media, including writers like Feldman, who focus all of our attention on just a few candidates that gets us into a situation where there is “an unacknowledged consensus between the two parties on the most important question of foreign policy facing the United States.” That consensus is only among the candidates with the most money.
The newspapers of this country used to help shape opinion in times like this, creating furor over policy decisions and actually forcing their favorite candidates into the limelight. It seems now that only the most newsworthy candidates get any attention. Debates often exclude people like Kucinich especially, and even when other candidates are included they are not asked any questions. I think our media has become far too cowardly in promoting issues or candidates, waiting to see who is most likely to win, while at the same time restricting the discussion to a few candidates whose positions would not likely reflect badly on the media outlet itself.
Yes to Noah’s assertion that “The presidential election is our one chance (as citizens) to put these issues to a democratic test.” However, by focusing only on certain candidates before any votes had even been cast, by speaking of the top candidates, or the front runners, or the major candidates, we are left with little insight into the major sources of differing opinion among many of the other candidates.
If a little more attention had been paid to Gravel, Kucinich, Paul or Richardson, and the news media had exposed their ideas for getting us out of this messy occupation of Iraq, we might have had a better chance to put these issues to the test.
No I don’t think we will get the foreign “policy we deserve”; I think we will get the only foreign policy that our news sources have allowed the majority of citizens to ponder at all.
And that is the policy that is solely determined among those who can raise the most money.