Thursday, April 26, 2007

"The announcement preceding the formal announcement"

Fz over at the Great American Political Blog takes issue with John McCain's recent announcement that he is running for president:

So, apparently Senator John McCain formally announced his candidacy for president yesterday.



If I'm not mistaken (and I read the New York Times, so I don't think I am), John McCain has been campaigning for president for a number of months now. Indeed, I was under the impression that he had announced his candidacy on the Late Show with David Letterman on February 28, almost two whole months ago.

What is this? Struggling candidates will re-announce their candidacy every few months in hopes of drawing media attention and gaining stature in the polls? Well, the former worked; I guess we'll have to wait and see about the latter.

Far be it from me to disagree with Fz, one of the smartest political thinkers I know. But if you watch the clip all the way through, you’ll notice that McCain is careful to qualify his statement, admitting: “By the way, I’ll be making a formal announcement in April…You drag this out as long as you can… you know, you don’t just have one rendition, you do it over and over.” While it’s quite funny to hear him describe his appearance as the “announcement preceding the formal announcement,” McCain is actually showing an admirable degree of honesty about the way these things work. I don’t think he is at fault here; if anyone is, it’s the news media, who allow these little games in the name of manufacturing 24 hours of news every day.

UPDATE: Fz responds here:
The media can only report what goes on; indeed, that is their job. However, DC seems to suggest that the media should take the high road and not "allow these little games." When did we lose so much faith in our electoral process that we started to think that the media should be more mature than the candidates?
My response: it's a fact of life that people respond to incentives. It's true in economics, and it's definitely true in politics. Change the incentives, change the behavior. If a hypothetical high-minded, mature candidate can work up a little buzz by announcing multiple times, what's the harm? I'd prefer we had a more substantive, issue-driven media, but we don't. This is no worse than putting on a miner's helmet/farmer's overalls/cowboy hat at a campaign photo-op. It's a little silly, but let's face it, running for president is an inherently undignified process anyway.

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