Friday, October 10, 2008

So very tired

One of the very best political movies of all time is The Candidate starring Robert Redford. It's a great film with keen political insight (it won an Oscar for best screenplay written by Jeremy Larner, a speech-writer for Senator Eugene J. McCarthy during McCarthy's campaign for the 1968 Democratic Presidential nomination).

Political chronics will know the film but for those who don't, it's about a young political candidate for Governor of California. There are many twists and turns in the story but a great moment occurs late in the campaign. Redford is in the back of the limo heading to election event number 1,654,385 or so when he starts repeating his stump speech to himself. He has delivered it so many times that the speech becomes meaningless to him; the words come out in a meaningless and bizarre jumble of phrases and ideas. His handlers, listening to him from the front seat, look at each other with a look that tells you they think he's lost his mind.

That's what happens in long campaigns: candidates gets punchdrunk and silly because they get tired. Ever take a flight across Canada? Now take one every day, back and forth, for a month. Then try to pass any kind of test of concentration.

Wondering if Peter MacKay knows what candidate he's stumping for today? Of course he does. But after 30+ days on nonstop travel, he's lucky to know his own name.

Wondering if Dion knows his own economic plan? Again, of course he does. Again, after 30+ days on nonstop travel, he's lucky to know his own name.

Are Harper's efforts to seize on Dion's mistake to his own advantage underhanded? I don't think so - it's just politics. Maybe, as a political tactic, it's not as effective or as smart as it could be. But it's still just politics nonetheless.

Is it bad journalistic ethics to run the flubs on the air in toto? I'm not sure because I'm not an expert in the area. But I'm not sure what journalistic purpose was fulfilled in doing that.

I'm not excusing the flub on tiredness or hearing or language. After a campaign this long, there are no new questions and the answers should become automatic. Somehow, in this case, the autopilot went on strike and his brain locked up. It is not a comment on his competence; it's a confirmation of his basic human fallibility.

This is not a good way to end the last week of the campaign.

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