Friday, February 24, 2012

Game theory...

I've watched most of the Republican primary debates. "Disappointed" is one of the more conversationally neutral words that come to mind when I think about them.

I won't bore you with the standard bitch about "not enough substance," "avoiding the issues," "tired recitation of talking points," "pathetically simple-minded personal attacks," and so on, you know that story…

The more damaging failure of the debates is the media coverage. For the moment, I'll ignore the temptation to put the hammer down on the so-called moderators, who, as a group, just can't seem to deliver the hardball questions and just can't seem to avoid the attempted "gotcha" questions.

The failure is all about the gaming of the debates and of the primary election process itself. The cable news talking heads endlessly probe each other's thoughts and deepest feelings about "who won last night's debate." Of course, all that blather boils down to the Santorum supporter sincerely claiming his guy won, and the Romney champion sincerely claiming her guy won, and a celebrity talking head, more or less fatuously, offering up the insight that, really, more or less neither guy won because neither of them "did what he had to do," whatever that means...

Of course, these haven't been real debates in the classical sense. It seems to me that "winning" isn't the point. Expressing and defending one's policies and philosophies is the point, and there's precious little useful media reporting that offers coherent information about what the candidates actually said, beyond the endless, loopy "sound bite" recaps.

Media reporting should be helpful in case you missed seeing the debate. I double-dog dare you to say that you could get a reasonable summary of what the candidates said in last night's debate by listening to this morning's talk shows and tuning in to cable news.

This primary season has been entertaining, can't deny that. But it's not a game. Dubious dispute about who won this or that debate overwhelms discussion of issues. The ever-changing political poll results are reported breathlessly like so many half-time scores. The polls are presented as forecasts, but most of the time their predictive value obviously is near zero.

The media and cable news talking heads keep giving us a score, but they're really not giving us much help to understand what's going on.

Political gas.....oops, I mean "gaffes"

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