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As Long as We Remember...

April 14, 2010

Gwen Ifill: The Difficulties

Kevin E. Dayhoff

In the pursuit of gaining more insights into the caustic vagaries and vituperative whims of all things divided and bitter that is Washington these days, I attended a presentation recently by a distinguished Public Broadcasting Service journalist and left the building with more questions than answers.


Gwen Ifill, 54, the moderator of Washington Week, senior correspondent for The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and the author of “The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama,” took time away from her hectic schedule to make a presentation last week at Gettysburg College.


I anticipated an insightful talk by one the preeminent thinkers in today’s traditional elite media.


What I got was a presentation marinated with several pronounced themes. She explored the virtues of pursuing a career in journalism but that – in her own personal journey – in order to rise to her level of accomplishment, she had to overcome racism, both subversive and overt. For which she is to be admired.


In the post-racial Era of Obama, race continues to be the third rail of politics.


Throughout her presentation, Ms. Ifill incessantly pleaded that she is an impartial arbiter of news and information.


All of these themes are inextricably woven into the complexity of what is today’s elite media in a transformative era for both politics and journalism. For convenience I have divided my thoughts into a three-part, separate but connected series.


To be certain, Ms. Ifill was at Gettysburg in the context of promoting her book which is about racial politics in America. So, perhaps the fault was all mine for leaving the presentation somewhat confused.


I was looking for commentary that was insightful about how American politics may transcend the racial and gender identity situational narcissism in which the elite media and the hard-left gaze at their navel.


Her talk was billed as “Breaking Through: Why Politics Matters.” It would have been more accurately advertized as “Breaking Through: Why Race Matters in Today’s Politics.” In the interest of full disclosure, I would have still attended.


A big advantage of advancing age is that you get to recognize news media silliness when it happens. However, like most Americans, I have grown so bored and tired with everything political being thrust through a racial – or partisan political – meat grinder.


I am reminded of how political commentator Rob Spring recently introduced a column he wrote by saying: “I know I'm getting old now. I've heard that you do stupid things in your youth and then you get confused as you get older. Well, now I'm doing things that don't make sense. I guess I must be confused.”


Well, I’m so confused and stupid that this aging, overweight, balding, white guy is about to comment about race identity politics...


Nevermind that I am a life member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and that I have spend much of my life fighting to allow all Americans equal access to the American dream. I clearly understand that to get anywhere near the third rail of contemporary politics, or to dare criticize our sitting president, you must be a racist.


I have always admired Ms. Ifill’s work. I also believe that to understand where we are today, we must know from where we have come.


I have not finished her book, but from an historian’s point-of-view, what I have read indicates that it is a forthright period piece on where we are as a country at the moment.


However, I tend to not look at history as linear – from a political party prism, the “Great Man Theory,” or from a gender, religious, ethnic or race magnifying glass. I tend to see all history as the conflict of economics, with a pinch of sociology thrown-in for context.


We owe Ms. Ifill a debt of gratitude for writing her book. I enjoyed her talk. That stated, let’s now move-on to the post-racial world for which we all aspire, and solve a few problems.


I have grave concerns about the current direction of our country, Congress and the current administration. Like most Americans, I do not care about the color of President Barack Obama’s skin, or that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is a woman, or that President of the Senate, Harry Reid is from another planet.


In the face of the grave challenges we confront in our nation, we need all hands on deck. To simplistically disqualify anyone with a viable solution, on the basis of their race, ethnicity, political party or gender, is just plain dumb.


The partisan pundits and elite media are grossly missing the point that the vast majority of Americans are looking for solutions that transcend party, gender, and racial identity politics.


Most workaday Americans sitting at the kitchen table worry far more about the national debt, runaway profligate spending in our nation’s capitol, stagnant unemployment, an increased tax burden, and how they are going to pay the mortgage, utility and grocery bills.


We care about the future and quality of life of our children, many of whom are blinded by the cult of personality of the president and are oblivious to the fact that – as they grow older – they are going to be saddled with paying the overwhelming taxes required to increase the dependent-entitlement class in our country.


Find us someone who can address these issues and I do not care if he or she is a left-handed, red-haired Aleut of Hungarian descent.


To drag more garbage into this narrative instead of focusing on the real issues confronting our country is growing quite tiring.


With all this now said; Ms. Ifill gave the audience a recap of her career and a commentary about race-based politics and the objectivity of today’s elite media, which will be further explored in two additional segments – continuing tomorrow.



Yellow Cab
The Morning News Express with Bob Miller
The Covert Letter

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