Sam Boyd notes the media’s bizarre flip-flops and double-reversals on the subject of the Obama-Clinton debate spat. The pathology he’s identifying is the exact one James Fallows focuses on in the piece I plugged this morning — a pathological aversion to talk about the substance of things. A decision was made to say that Obama “lost” the initial exchange not because people wanted to say Obama was wrong on the merits, but because they wanted to say he was wrong on the politics. When that turned out not to be the case, the whole machine froze up — it was like asking the punditocracy to divide by zero.
It’s John Edwards’ hair all over again. The first votes won’t be cast until months from now. Why not cover what the candidates are saying about things and whether or not those things make sense? Why not let the issues play out a little bit and just wait and see who gains the advantage? Whether or not either Clinton or Obama ever intended to establish a sharp policy disagreement, there is an interesting issue here — should the United States abandon its policy of seeking to “isolate” countries we don’t like by refusing to talk to them unless they first meet a series of preconditions? I would say that the overwhelming evidence of history is that this sort of isolation — as opposed to multilateral economic sanctions, which have had a few successes — accomplishes almost nothing, and the policy should be abandoned. But it’s an important issue and it deserves some coverage.
Photo by Flickr user Allison Harger used under a Creative Commons license