How the trivial and entertaining mask real issues

Published 10:19 am Friday, July 29, 2016

by Tom Purcell

“Can you believe Melania Trump used some of the same words in her Republican convention speech that First Lady Michelle Obama used in one of hers!”

“Ah, yes, you speak of the propensity of too many people in our country ­— and too many alleged journalists in our media — who make trivial matters into great affairs as they completely overlook the many serious challenges our country faces.”

“Such as the nasty speech Chris Christie gave at the Republican convention? He said Hillary should be locked up! That is inflammatory!”

“No, I’m talking about real problems, such as America’s federal debt. It shot up to $19,400,000,000,000 a week ago, the highest it has ever been. It will soar as baby boomers keep retiring and entitlement costs explode. It will soar when interest rates eventually readjust to higher rates.”

“Who cares about that? I hear Donald Trump’s son may have borrowed sections of his convention speech from other speeches, too. Thank goodness the media are all over that one!”

“The media should be focusing on our tepid economic growth. Do you know that President Obama is the first president in our history to never experience a single year with 3 percent GDP growth? The economy grew only 1.1 percent last year. If we don’t start growing at 4 percent, we will never generate enough tax revenue to meet our future obligations.”

“Well, what are you worried about? Isn’t Donald Trump going to make America great again if he becomes president?”

“In the same way President Obama brought America the ‘hope and change’ he promised? Look, I’m rooting for whoever our next president is, but I continue to worry about the way this election season has played out. The trivial and the bombastic are making the news, while the real problems we face are being glossed over.”

“What are you talking about? Bernie, Hillary and Trump have been a boon to late-night comedians. This election cycle has been a hoot!”

“Look, Edward Morrissey explains the problem well in The Fiscal Times. He cites a study by Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy that credited the national media with giving birth to Trump’s rise. By ‘constantly covering Trump’s every move’ — because his stories were often entertaining — the media snuffed out the other Republican candidates and helped him win the nomination.”

“Yeah, well, Americans are fed up with the same old, same old and Trump is one way they’re thumbing their noses at the elites.”

“Maybe so, but that isn’t the point. The point is Bernie Sanders benefited the same way Trump did. The Harvard study found that the media were eager to drum up a ‘David vs. Goliath’ story line — Bernie vs. establishment Hillary — and gave Sanders way more credibility and energy that he would have had otherwise.” “Hey, tired old hippies deserve a little news coverage now and then.”

“Look, the Harvard study essentially concludes that the media are no longer in the business of serious substance and ‘determining competency’ in presidential candidates. The mass media are in the business of developing entertaining stories and, writes Harvard’s Thomas Patterson, ‘Donald Trump was the mother lode.’”

“So what’s the big deal?” “As Morrissey points out, the big deal is that a representative republic depends on ‘a well-informed electorate and responsible journalists.’ As voters and the media continue to dwell on the trivial and entertaining — as they continue to ignore the many real issues and challenges our country is facing — we will continue ending up with presidential elections that are more circus than serious discussion. And that doesn’t bode well for America.”

TOM PURCELL, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery novel, both available at, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom