It seems impossible to remember a time BC: Before Campaign. That may be because we've been at this game seriously since 2006. By the time the US votes, it will be a vote two years in the making (at that rate, isn't it time to start the 2012 campaign?) Perhaps because of this stretched out schedule, the capacity for substantive debate has been also stretched — to the snapping point.
Whether a function of the campaigns themselves running out of ways (gimmicks?) to keep themselves in the public eye for an interminable amount of time, the media's fatigue with covering yet another town hall in yet another town, or the public's appetite for newer, better, flashier, the campaign we're seeing now, well it's a little stinky.
Case in point: the Obama Energy Plan tire gauge. I admit, I saw it and winced. Because now that we've seen it all, every move, especially during these lazy days of summer, is heightened in import to a major event — and when McCain is actually out there and talking about his plan in a more conventional way.
Now, the gauge itself, kind of funny. Obama did say we should inflate our tires. The doohickey just takes a statement and gives it legs in a party favor format. And I don't doubt it was meant as a joke — McCain is famous for them, like when Obama was on his big trip abroad, and the McCain team handed out gag press credentials to the domestic-bound crew traveling with him that read "JV Squad: Left Behind to Report in America." I mean just using the word "JV" in an adult setting is inherently funny — but what does it say about the discourse? To find out, and see Paris Hilton's response to the celebrity ad with an energy plan of her own, read more.
Here's the rub: even though stunts like this and the celebrity-filled ad get picked up and talked about, I question whether they might do more harm than good. McCain has an energy plan, the Lexington Project, and it's not too shabby. Obama's got one too and there are substantive comparisons out there, in addition to the candidates' own websites that spell out their entire energy policies. I have faith that there is room for levity and gravitas in the campaign, but given the duration of constant scrutiny, one tire gauge can be spun as the sum total of a plan when that's far from the truth.
Do stories like the tire gauge and the celeb ad make the campaign lighter than air — or simply lighten the mood?