Today, David Brooks yammers at some length about Kerry's references to "values" in his presidential campaign. For those of us a bit sick of that type of rhetoric, and who would rather see our presidential candidates focusing on issues, this argument is not without merit. But... since when was it Kerry who introduced "values" into mainstream politics, or insisted that discussion of "values" come before, say, discussion of important issues or even questions of basic competence? According to ABC Online (Australia):
In a story with echoes of that one, in the US Presidential campaign, the Bush/Cheney team is planning to focus attention on traditional values, especially the hot button issues of gay marriage and abortion. ... Forget Iraq. Forget the war on terrorism. Forget the economy. It's time to run on values and what better for firing up the conservative base than gay marriage.Before lamenting the passage of the era in which rich people publicly flaunted their extreme wealth and were more concerned about "manners" than "values", Brooks announces,
When Kerry uses the word "values," it's meant to send a message: I am not who I am. I am not the blue-blooded prep-school kid who married two millionaires, dated a movie star and has a prenup and umpteen homes in tony locales; who has spent the past two decades as a moderately liberal senator from Massachusetts; and who likes to snowboard at Sun Valley and windsurf off Nantucket. I'm just your back-fence neighbor in Mayberry, out there in overalls, sidlin' over to the fence to chat: "Howdy neighbor! Would you like to come visit for a spell and hear about my values of faith, hope and opportunity?"Okay... so Kerry is subject to this rather scathing caricature, because he's a rich boy. Surely, given that Bush has been focusing on "values" from the day he entered national politics, Brooks gives equal time to his pampered, privileged upbringing? Think again:
This campaign's version of middle-class values is like the Cracker Barrel restaurant version of a small town: a manufactured replica of a wholesome, down-home America that never existed. A realistic portrait of middle-class values would include tattoos, carb-counting and the purchase of voluminous amounts of lottery tickets by people who dream of escaping from the middle class.
Both John Forbes Kerry and George Walker Bush — who, let's face it, ain't exactly John-Boy Walton — are going to compete furiously over the next three months to see who is the most spiritually middle class.Yup. There you have it. David Brooks gives us his version of "balanced coverage".