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Political bickering ought to be least of our worries

Nov. 8, 2006

By JON SCHROEDER

The latest news from Washington isn't really news. Well, it's important, but only in the way celebrity gossip is important. It shouldn't affect my life, but I have to hear about it anyway.

John Kerry recently joked that our nation's students need to work hard in school, or they'll "get stuck in Iraq." Whoops. Didn't mean to alienate thousands of potential voters and their families.

Immediately blasted both by his own party and (of course) by the Republicans, Kerry apologized -- sort of. He said he accidentally "mangled" a joke about President Bush.

CNN quoted one top Democratic strategist saying Kerry should just keep his mouth shut, since he'd already cost the party one election.

In the ensuing playground fight, both John McCain and Bush got into the action, calling Kerry's comments "shameful" and "an insult to every soldier in Iraq."

Kerry, always the bigger man, shot back that the administration is just afraid to debate a "real man." Then he refused to apologize. After sulking for a few days, he finally said he was sorry. No one is happier for having made the comment a controversy, and of all the time and energy spent on figuring out who said what, I can't see that the American people have benefited in the slightest.

Maybe Bush and Kerry won't be attending each other's birthday parties this year after all.

Do we have anything -- anything at all -- more important to be discussing? If we're done throwing mud, I'd like to move on to something more important. Like Iraq. Like illegal immigration. Like the fact that our partisan Congress seems to be ineffective. Like gay marriage. Like abortion. Like stem-cell research. Like education, if Kerry and Bush both will kindly keep their mouths shut. Like anything at all but this.

Please don't think this criticism is aimed at the offices of any of the characters involved in this little debacle. It's not. But both Bush and Kerry could do a little growing.

I'm frustrated, and we should be frustrated with leaders so obviously more interested in humiliating their political opponents than with running a country.

How can we trust someone to manage our country, our state, our city when we watch him rip into his opponent in a campaign ad or a press conference? Surely we're not inspired by either side's shady maneuverings. And surely we don't think this is what politics should be.

I get this idea that any objective viewer, seeing the entire situation of U.S. politics from the outside, might have to stifle a dirty little chuckle every so often.

It's like good satire, or maybe a bad comedy. Either way, watching it hurts just a little too much.

It's U.S. politics, and our leaders better start taking it with a grain of humor and a block of salt if they want to accomplish anything.

Jon Schroeder is a senior journalism major from Arvada, Colorado.