For the past two weeks I have lived as most normal people live – too busy with work and kids to pay much attention to the details of national news and politics. A new job and a return to the school calendar have demanded I forego my usual political junkie cable news/internet news/blog fix. I have followed politics since high school. Back then it was by reading columnists in my local paper and watching This Week with David Brinkley, The McLaughlin Group and Nightline on a regular basis. Then came CNN’s Crossfire, followed by more cable news shows and channels, internet news sites and online communities discussing news at sites like Lucianne.com. With each additional hour of political programming, the time I spent reading and thinking about news and politics increased. By the time I became introduced to blogs, first through Andrew Sullivan, my addiction was a bit out of control.
I think I can speak for most political junkies when I say you get to a point where you just can’t imagine not being insanely over-informed about all things political. The thought of not knowing what is going on in the world, particularly in Washington DC, is almost unthinkable. The amount of time spent reading news and opinion pieces about issues and legislation and candidates and even political gossip leaves less time for other activities like dusting the house or exercising or watching really good trashy television dramas. You have an urge to be informed. More than an urge really -- a hunger that must be satisfied.
In the past couple of weeks I have only skimmed the headlines and have watched only brief snippets of cable news. I have simply not had time between school carpool and work and the kids’ extracurricular activities. What I have learned though, instead of being less informed, I might just have gained an edge in one respect of political knowledge. I am actually beginning to remember what it felt like to not know what was going on in the world of politics. What is even more helpful is that for most of that time I not only did not know what was going on inside the Beltway, but I was too busy to care. I am seeing the world anew through the eyes of a (somewhat) normal person and that is giving me a greater understanding of why public opinion on some issues is the way it is.
I have seen headlines about “a boy named Hsu,” as my friend Steve Schippert refers to him. From what I have picked up from headlines, Hsu’s current whereabouts are unknown. I don’t know exactly what he is accused of doing, but it has something to do with campaign money and Hillary Clinton. That certainly sounds familiar. Once I fall back into my daily news habit I am sure I will be able to get up to speed on all the details. For now though, I am not really paying it much attention. Another Clinton scandal? What ever comes of those? They never get in any real trouble for anything they do, so who cares? A few weeks ago I never would have been able to say such a thing. I am quickly coming to think like someone who is not completely immersed in politics.
Another story I picked up on a bit, in spite of my break from political news obsession, was that of Senator Larry Craig. Lots about feet tapping, and wide stances and airport bathroom solicitation, but that is about as far as I got. My best guess is that if I had time to watch Jay Leno I would be getting much more information on that story. Anytime a Republican is accused of a crime, comedians become really interested. If it is a crime related to sex, then even more so. If it is a crime related to gay sex, that comedian will have material for at least a couple of months.
Speaking of Jay Leno, I did not watch him last night, but I did see some references to Fred Thompson announcing his presidential run on the show. Is it just because my political junkie email inbox has been filled with news of his announcement for months that this was less than a shock to me? I wonder if all those normal people who don’t receive a half dozen emails a day from various friends of Fred and who don’t read political news reports were surprised by the announcement.
I can’t turn off my bias or the past political knowledge I have accumulated over a lifetime, but I can tune out for a few weeks to get a different perspective. It really does make a difference. Maybe that is something those who follow and write about politics should make mandatory at least a couple times a year. It would give them new insight into the reactions so many news and politics stories receive from the general public. And besides, it’s kind of fun pretending to be normal from time to time.