When in doubt, journalists and voters turn cynical | VailDaily.com

When in doubt, journalists and voters turn cynical

Tom Boyd

When faced with a tough choice between two presidential candidates, editors and columnists tend to throw up their hands and proclaim: “This is a decision between the lesser of two evils.”And why not? After digging inside the lives of every candidate, journalists eventually find the dirt they were looking for, and that’s where they focus the world’s attention. This, in turn, makes them feel like everyone they write about is a scumbag.If information is water, journalists are the pipelines and filters that deliver the water. It’s no wonder, then, that when the American people form their opinion of politicians, they drink a cocktail laced with cynicism. Add the toxic mixture of outrageous negative campaign advertisements, and eventually Americans come to the dyspeptic conclusion that our government halls are filled with liars and criminals.At the risk of sounding optimistic (a cardinal sin for journalists), I’d like to deliver some clear water: Politicians in this country are generally good people with good intentions. There are a few exceptions, of course. But make no mistake: virtually every person in politics believes they can make the world a better place.If any one of them could figure out a way to solve all the world’s ills at once, they certainly would. But they can’t. The difference comes in priority; different candidates place different issues at the top of their priority list.Therein lies the difference between Bush and Kerry.Which is part of the reason why the Sept. 30 debate was the best I’ve seen policy ruled the day, not cheeky one-liners and sound bytes (television journalists, after the fact, were visibly frustrated because they lacked a proper “you’re no Kennedy” kind of sound byte which they could replay, boorishly, ad infinitum).Each candidate came away with well-made points and, yes, each candidate managed to skew a few facts, too (Bush claimed 100,000 trained Iraqis patrolled the streets when it is less than 50,000; and Kerry added un-spent money to his “$200 billion spent in Iraq” calculation).Bush, of course, was at a disadvantage. He was forced to defend a messy post-war cleanup at a time when every single one of his pre-war justifications has proven false or illusory.Die-hard Republicans aren’t bothered by this they understand the importance of showing unity and support in a time of war, regardless of whether or not your president is making errors. Die-hard Republicans also tend to have more money, so they’re not as acutely aware of the crippling effects of taking money out of America and sending it to Iraq.Democrats, on the other hand, believe Iraq was a tremendous error, and Bush should pay the price. And if he continues to stumble over his words as he did during the Sept. 30 debate, say Dems, then he will isolate our nation and leave the burden of war squarely on our shoulders.I believe that, as voters become more informed, Kerry will take the lead and eventually win the presidency. This won’t make the Iraq problem any easier to deal with, but it will send a message to the world that Americans are, despite recent evidence to the contrary, intelligent and compassionate people who hold leaders accountable for their mistakes.Locally, the same general principles hold: politicians in this county believe they are making the world a better place.I have great respect for each of the candidates running for office this year (besides, anyone who willingly takes part in years and years of government meetings deserves some kind of medal of honor).Each of our local candidates, just like our regional and national candidates, has a set of priorities which define them.Take a look at Buz Reynolds, for example, who isn’t taking campaign contributions because he doesn’t want to be beholden to anybody if he takes office.Both A.J. Johnson and Buz are both very honest, straightforward talkers who say what they believe and, refreshingly, admit it when they don’t know the answers to tough questions.It’s clear to anyone who knows Richard DeClark that he has a good heart and good intentions. There’s no doubt that, if he is elected, the people of Eagle County will be well taken care of. He has joined the Eagle Valley Rotary, he volunteered for the Salvation Army, joined the board at the Heuga Center and now serves on the Eagle County Youth Advisory Board.The only issue with DeClark is that he hasn’t come up with a solid plan to curb growth and his opponent Peter Runyon certainly has. As the Vail Trail has repeatedly reported, growth is a major, looming problem for this county and it needs to be higher on DeClark’s priority list.Even Tom Stone and Arn Menconi, who have been embroiled in unfortunate controversy, both fully believe they are out there doing the right thing that they are right and the other guy is wrong.We still have about a month until election day I suggest people spend some time learning to appreciate what these people go through when they decide to run for office (dealing with journalists is hard enough as it is). And before you begin criticizing politicians, think what you would do in their place. VTTom Boyd can be reached for comment at tboyd@vailtrail.com.

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