The Sliming of the American Public

By Gary Shapiro

“I feel slimed!” said Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE) as we sat at the witness table at a 2010 Energy and Commerce Committee hearing. Terry’s statement of disgust – of being “slimed” – was so well articulated that it has stayed with me to this day.

In fact, I keep thinking about it, because the barrage of “news” stories, claims, ads, and innuendo this election season has made me wonder how our system has become so petty and irrelevant to the big problems that challenge us. Slime is the order of the day. For the presidential campaign it is all slime, all the time. Things that never mattered before have taken on great significance when entering the media echo chamber.

Governor Romney, whom President Clinton praised as a great businessman and qualified to be President, is slimed for protecting his own privacy and refusing to release 10 years’ of tax returns, as well as for investing some money overseas just like Nancy Pelosi, Debbie Wasserman Schultz  and many others of wealth do. More, he has been repeatedly slimed for his success with Bain Capital, an investment vehicle favored by unions and universities with an amazing 80 percent success rate. Even a big issue like Romney’s statement on the U.S. Embassy in Cairo’s inappropriate, comments that apologized for the slanderous Mohammed video was slimed by the media – yet the Obama Administration later revealed it had ordered that the Embassy not make the statement attracting the Romney criticism.

Rep. Paul Ryan also has been slimed repeatedly. Known as a budget wonk before his selection as a vice presidential pick, he has been derided for exaggerating his marathon time and body fat ratio. More, Ryan’s convention speech was slimed immediately by Democrats and the media within seconds of its delivery.

Yet, few reporters apply the same skeptical approach to the promises made four years ago by candidate Obama. He promised to cut the deficit in half, never raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 and be above partisan politics. Or what about his broken promises on the cost of the GM bailout, the unemploymentrate reduction from the $800 billion stimulus, or his claim that Obamacare was not a tax? Instead, the media has given the President a free ride. How can it be that Obama’s broken promises during his campaign are not as important as Ryan’s body fat and marathon time? The media isn’t even trying to hide its bias this time around.

Every week, we see a new irrelevant charge against Romney or Ryan and every week we fail to debate the issues that matter. The Democratic strategy is to divert the public’s attention from the issues that impact Americans the most – jobs and the economy. Just a cursory look at the front pages all but confirms that.

But the Republicans are not without blame either. Governor Romney’s campaign has been less than clear in answering many tough questions. Romney’s answers should be compared against President Obama’s actions and answers. But I give the Romney campaign credit for not going into the slime and attacking President Obama and Biden for their personal failings. Their attacks are based on facts, substance and areas where there is genuine disagreement.

Here are a few bigger issues that the mainstream media should insist be answered. I also hope these concerns arise in the debates.

How will our children deal with the deficit we are handing them? How will we cut the deficit? How are we going to address the fiscal cliff? What tax loopholes will be closed? Who supports the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction plan or an alternative? How will we cut the explosive growth of entitlements? What about raising the Social Security entitlement age? Should we end the failed war on drugs? What about the growing prison population? Why aren’t businesses hiring? How can we get more investment in U.S. facilities? What do we do about an education system failing to produce or match open jobs? Do we have too much litigation? Should we go to a loser-pays system? What about the obesity epidemic? How can we get our population healthy? Should any American go hungry or without health care? What is America’s role in the world? Why are we still defending Korea, Japan and Europe at a tremendous cost to U.S. taxpayers?

We have important issues to discuss, and as an American I hope the media stops sliming the public with its biased coverage and forces a debate on the most important issues of our time. As Americans we can and should demand no less.

Gary Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times bestselling book, “The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream.” Connect with him on Twitter: @GaryShapiro.

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