Former Clinton Press Secretary Spins Oberlin
By Greg Walters

Politics isn’t what it used to be, Clinton administration Press Sec-retary Michael McCurry declared Thursday.
McCurry traveled to Oberlin on Thursday to share his views on what’s wrong with the government these days, and how the media fits into the problem.
Winning the Cold War ushered in a new era of partisanship, he explained.
The need to stand together against the Soviet Union gave the period a “dynamic that at least required Democrats and Republicans to reach across the public aisle,” he said.
“But ironically, that very victory has produced a negative outcome in our own politics,” he continued. “American politics have become partisan and vituperative since the end of the Cold War.
“Example: even though we could have, we never put the president of the United States through a sex scandal [during the Cold War]. That’s a big change in the forces affecting history,” he said. The lack of focus has helped cause government gridlock, McCurry explained.
“This is not a happy picture,” he said. “And the press corps helps perpetuate this condition.”
The ’90s, he continued, also saw a revolution in media affairs.
“Clinton once told me that when he became president there were 53 sites on what would later become known as the World Wide Web,” McCurry said. “When he left, there were 350 million.”
But this newfound access to information has not resulted in a better informed citizenry.
“Our ability to synthesize and process that information has been diminished, not improved,” McCurry said.
McCurry quoted a former dean of Harvard: “We live in an era with a plenitude of information but a paucity of understanding.
“There’s no sense at all in the press corps today that the American people have the ability to walk and chew gum at the same time,” he said.
Instead of offering in-depth coverage of the issues at hand, media coverage is “about providing entertaining mud wrestling on air,” McCurry said.
“I think we can’t afford the consequences of a nation that was not seriously engaged in thinking about the world and not pondering what the consequences of these kinds of policies might mean.”
But there are, McCurry thinks, ways to deal with these problems.
For starters, “I would propose a new ethic of journalism,” he said. “We have to think in creative ways about what journalism is.”
31 million people age 12 to 24 tuned in to MTV in the days after Sept. 11, for example. 25 million people watched the episode of “The West Wing” that dealt with the meaning of Islam in contemporary society.
“I guarantee you, if you show up in disproportionate numbers and vote, politicians are going to wake up,” he said. “You might actually get politicians to be visionary.”

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