Douglas MacKinnon

As this negative and insufferably long presidential primary season continues, two truths — with apologies to Thomas Jefferson — have become self-evident.

The first is that Iowa and New Hampshire seriously need to be kicked to the curb. When about 10 percent of the residents of Iowa can hold the candidates and the national media hostage for a year, it's time to say, "enough." When the paper of record in Iowa dictates that Republican gadfly Alan Keyes is a presidential candidate and then sponsors a debate that takes Iraq and foreign policy off the table, it's time to acknowledge that egos have grown out of control. When, in an attempt to save face, New Hampshire almost holds its primary in 2007, it's time to crash the entire primary schedule and rebuild it in time to save 2012.

The second, and more serious truth to be acknowledged, is that the national media — especially when it comes to the Democratic candidates — has hijacked much of the process by pompously and prematurely dictating to the voters who was "top-tier" and who was "bottom-tier." Then, based on those prejudiced pronouncements, the focus is on who got coverage and questions, and who was unceremoniously deposited on top of the slag heap.

As a rule, the national media dictates that in order for them to take a candidate seriously, he or she must be, or have been, a governor or a senator, or at the very least, "America's Mayor." Beyond that, they have to be a candidate they deem interesting, charismatic, amusingly self-destructive or a good human interest story. Experience, gravitas and accumulated real-world knowledge are not prerequisites for the media to vault someone to the "top-tier" category.

While this media elitism or snobbery may be entertaining for some in and out of that business, the truth of the matter is that it rigged a process that is critically important to the well-being of our nation — a process, that because of the ludicrously compressed primary season, became more vulnerable than ever to this type of media manipulation. As proof, look no further than the results of Iowa. In the grouping bestowed upon them by the media months ago, Barack Obama, John Edwards and Hillary Clinton came out on top.

And yet, a number of Democrats that I have spoken with these last few months have told me that they think of Sen. Chris Dodd as the "adult in the room, and the most electable in a general election." That said, they were working with, or were going to vote for, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama or Mr. Edwards. When asked why, they simply said, "because the media rated Dodd bottom-tier from the beginning and I don't want to waste my vote or time."


Douglas MacKinnon

Douglas MacKinnon is former White House and Pentagon official who spent three years working in a Joint Command.

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