I’ve been thinking about flip-flops. Actually I’ve been thinking about the 55 words of the Miranda warning, Election 2008, the candidates, being silent, the court of public opinion, attorney(s), and the government picking up the tab. The 1963 court case of Miranda vs. Arizona ultimately gave rise to the ever-pervasive Miranda warning which advises individuals who are being arrested of their rights. Those 55 words so often pop up in the TV dramas that the American public has committed them to memory.
You see as the Election 2008 Presidential Campaign continues to unwind; it also appears that the reading of these rights should be done to our political candidates as well. This is shaping up to be a particularly aggressive slug fest. In the 2004 election, “flip-flops” entered our lexicon as a derogatory assessment of what a candidate was doing. They said one thing, made promises, and divulged strategies only to change their minds and recant on the earlier positions. This is nothing new! The advent of the internet and proliferation of web blogs, chat rooms, and netizen monitoring has picked up the slack in news coverage and analysis by the traditional media forums. It is harder and harder to deny statements, positions, and policy declarations when clips of them are so readily available (in perpetuity) on the net.
In recent weeks I’ve noted an escalation in blog commentaries, pseudo news stories, and emails which are trashing one presidential candidate --- or the other: 100 reasons to NOT vote for..., “X” plans to greatly increase taxes and oppressive government regulation, “Y” has sold out to special interests and will sell out the country, the “wars” in Afghanistan or Iraq) will be abruptly ended (OR continue indefinitely) to the detriment of our entire way of life. Even if completely fabricated and untrue, once out there; a candidate must commit valuable time and resources to counter, deny, or refute such points.
Whoever “wins” the November election, effectively “loses!” The victor faces diplomatic, military, economic, financial, energy, social, AND philosophical powder kegs – any one of which could prove devastating to our system(s). There are NO simple, quick, and painless fixes. We need REAL leadership, but there will be a REAL temptation to resort to the security of the points of the Miranda warning.
You have the right to remain silent: What candidate has ever NOT regretted saying “something?” Even if a comment (or word choice) was sincerely and innocently made, there is safety in resorting only to clichés, platitudes, and “pabulum.” We’ve already experienced “great” rhetoric --- saying nothing!
Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law: Here the court of public opinion of the electorate will be the jury come November. Despite careful vetting of words, policies, and statements geared to appeal to the respective core party bases; mistakes will be made. These will require costly backtracking and/ or damage control - thus keeping the candidates from being honest and forthright with US/us. This does a major disservice to the electorate and we deserve far better than this.
You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning: What candidate does NOT already have an army of attorneys, pollsters, political consultants, or spinmeisters? These were all “needed” to get the current party frontrunners to the point where they (in theory) have sewed up their respective nominations BEFORE their party’s conventions. One wonders if the messages being hawked (or planned to be hawked) are truly those of the candidates, or they are the consensus of respective campaign teams as to what the public wants to hear, are essential in firing up the party base, and are ultimately essential to winning the November Election?
If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided for you at government expense: If the candidate’s team does NOT feel they can raise the necessary bucks from the party faithful, the lobbyists, the PACs, and the special interests; they can agree to abide by the constraints of accepting Federal Election Monies and suck in Uncle $ugar’s cash. This will effectively limit their final run for the White House to $100 MILLION per major party. Upwards to a HALF a BILLION was spent on the primaries!
I hope and pray the 2008 candidates don’t resort to the confines and protections of the Miranda warning. This would be a disservice to the functioning of a real horserace election. A campaign limited to “muted” debates and silent posters featuring perfect hair, pearly smiles, and postcard families; just isn’t going to cut it.
I’m Fred Cederholm and I’ve been thinking. You should be thinking, too.
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This story was published on June 23, 2008.