Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Speculation as news ...

You'll often hear people say they wish they could be a weatherman; only get it right half the time and still pick up a full paycheck. Heck, you might have said it yourself at some point. I'm sure I have.

But I have a better gig for you, with even a lower success rate necessary. Become a political pundit.

As a political junkie, I probably read more news on politics and the political process than any 10 people I know. Some of these stories are well thought out and make perfect sense. But often times, they are the political pipe dreams of people who have no clue about history or tradition.

In the past 24 hours, for example, I've read stories about why John McCain not only should, but WILL, drop out of the race for president ... and why the odds say that Barack Obama will pick Republican Chuck Hagel as his running mate.

Now I have no crystal ball. I can't say what will or won't happen. But I can tell you that I'd put good money up against either one of those "predictions."

See, while a weather man has to be right half the time, a political pundit only has to be right once. Just once. Ever. And he can for the rest of his life brag about it. Kind of like your buddy who caught that one touchdown in the state championship 30 years ago who feels the need to remind you during every Bills game - in order to legitimize his criticism of JP Losman.

I have no problem with fantasy. (although if Chuck Hagel and John McCain ever appear in one of my fantasies, I'm suing someone. This gentleman prefers blondes, thank you). I do however, have a problem with taking the least likely scenario and turning it into news.

It's as though these media types sit around smoking pot going, "Man, wouldn't it be totally awesome if Barack Obama picked a Republican running mate? Like that dude from Nebraska ... um Chuck Hagel? Yeah, and then he would totally win every electoral vote out there."

Come morning, they wake up with the munchies and vague memories of their conversation the night before ... but the thought lingers ... and even though no longer high, they still think it sounds like a great idea. Except somewhere along the line they forget that it was a half-baked (or all-baked as the case may be) pipe dream ... and write a column proclaiming that it's going to happen.

See, here's the great part for them: If they're wrong, no one remembers or cares. But if they're right, they're some sort of national heroes amongst the talking heads of the political world.

And worse yet, when they do get one right, it legitimizes every other all-baked scheme they've had ... and makes them "go-to" commentators in the future. So when they comment in 2032 Chelsea Clinton is going to choose the ghost of Walt Disney as her running mate, people will buy into it as though it were gospel.

Imagine if the weather man were only right once. Once ever. How long do you think he'd last?