On the episode of The Daily Show on June 7th, Jon Stewart mocked the concept of the media constantly asking if something is “fair game” when discussing a candidate’s history. You can find the hilarious examination here:
There are really valid arguments on both sides of the “fair game” or “not fair game” argument. One one hand, the presidency of the United States is arguably the most powerful position in the world, so the vetting process should be one of the most extensive. The American public deserves to know if their soon to be elected leader has any skeletons in their closest, and if any are found, those skeletons should be up for discussion.
Why should candidates be judged on things that will have no impact on how they do the job? Even if they are not relevant to their job performance, many voters may be swayed by a scandalous story from a candidate’s passed. When the media talks about these things they are being irresponsible by making the political discourse about juicy stories rather than issues.
To put these two stories to the test, lets examine a story from each of the two Presidential candidate’s pasts and see if they shine any light onto the type of leader they may be.
Obama and the Choom Gang
(First off, that is the name of my future band.)
Although his history with drug use had been fairly well-documented in his various auto-biographical works, Obama’s drug use as a teenager is being dragged back into the spotlight. New details discuss how Obama was quite the pot smoker in his early years, who would constantly experiment with new ways of getting high. He also admitted in an earlier book that he used cocaine at least once before.
Shave and a Haircut – Young Mitt
Another story that seemed to have hibernated since the eve of the general election was that of Mitt Romney’s high school encounter with a classmate in which he led the charge to cut the kid’s long dyed-blonde hair off. Although Romney does not recall the account, various witnesses say the Romney thought that the hair was too weird and convinced several classmates to help him remove it.
Chances are that while they are President, Barack Obama would not take bong hits with the Choom Gang, and Mitt Romney would not play White House barber?
But can we still judge them on these actions? It’s hard to say. Maybe these are isolated incidents.
But maybe they are not. If you think about it, both of these events can reveal something of each candidate’s character.
Barack Obama would be one to do drugs – he is often seen as a rebel liberal, willing to break the rules (or change them) if he doesn’t like a rule. Conservatives often accuse him of ignoring the constitution, and maybe his drug use is another example of him doing what he thinks is right or wrong rather than what is written in law.
Mitt Romney would be the one to do away with a classmate’s unconvential haircut – he is seen by his rivals as a closed off conservative, clinging to old social and cultural norms rather than uniqueness and change. He is straight laced, and maybe this points to his hesitance to truly support liberal social concepts.
These stories are like anecdotes.
While the main facets of each of these stories is probably true, I feel like the reason they are framed a certain way and that they are brought out at a certain time is intentional. They portray the candidates as the archetype of each party’s social platform.
Honestly, I think that whether these things are “fair game” is up to the individual voters to decide. While there are certainly truths in each story, the message is not necessarily relevant.
What do you think?