Monday, November 26, 2007

We're Asking the Wrong Questions

Finally, someone admits he inhaled. Not that I really care one way or another; but I have to agree with Mr. Obama that the whole point was to inhale—you get no “benefit” from the drug if you don’t.

To know what I’m talking about, go to and read about how yet another presidential candidate was asked if he smoked marijuana, and how he responded to this tired, unoriginal, and unrevealing question.

When Presidential hopeful William Jefferson Clinton was asked this question he responded with the now famous, “I didn’t inhale.” Obama effectively cries, “The emperor has no clothes on!” by responding that the whole point was to inhale, underscoring the importance of being totally honest if you’re going to be honest at all.

By responding to this question in the way that he did, Obama is not making a statement about being honest so much is he is making a statement about the stupidity of some of these questions. Of course by answering honestly he diminishes the possibility that someone will be able to flag around his dirty underwear later on and compound the negative effect by having been caught in a lie.

But the real importance of Obama’s response is that it underscores how irrelevant some of these questions are. Even our own born-again President George W. Bush admits to having imbibed in illicit substances in the days prior to his entry into public office, and no one really cares, nor does anyone really think anything he did while a teenager or twenty-something affects how he runs the country today (outside of the possible deaths of a few million brain cells). The really important thing about Obama’s response is it reveals how little we care about what a candidate might have done in his or her youth that he doesn’t do now, but how persistent reporters are in continuing to ask questions about what we don’t care about.

In the blog that I’ve referenced here, Mitt Romney says, "I agree with the sentiment that nobody's perfect and most of us, if not all of us, in our youthful years have engaged in various indiscretions we wouldn't want to have paraded in the front of a newspaper...On the other hand if we're running for president, I think it's important for us not to go into details about the weaknesses and our own failings as young people for the concern that we open kids thinking that it's ok for them." This begs the question why do reporters keep asking this question? If we don’t want to set a bad example for our kids by suggesting through our own honest admissions that we may have participated in the very things that we forbid them to do (culturally and legally), and if no one really cares about what the candidate of their choice did in his/her youth when they go to the ballot box, then why do reporters and Senate committees keep asking this stupid question?

I don’t have the answer, except that it has become the status quo, somehow. Perhaps one of the reasons that we have so much trouble finding out what candidates really stand for when we are trying to decide who to vote for is that no one is asking them the right questions. While I want to find out what Mr. Obama’s position on foreign policy, health care, and the budget are, reporters are asking whether he smoked Marijuana in high school or college; and then the response to THAT question is what the news publisher (in this case CNN) thought was worthwhile enough to publish.

We need to start asking the right questions if we ever want to find out anything that is worth knowing. Who will start?

1 comment: said...

Ok, I'll start....
Why does ebay charge me twice for one service? I checked their faq's in their customer service menu, and they had that as one of the faqs, but their answer was the answer to a completely different question.
Could it be that we are all morons? A third of us are morons for asking direct questions; another third are morons because they only hear "blah, blah, blah, and try to look clever in some way by answering any question; the other third are morons because they sit back thinking "hmm... that was a good question.... that sounded like a good answer to some mysterious question, but it sounded so good I'm just going to sit here with my legs crossed, raise my right eyebrow, rub my chin, nod my head ion an agreeing fashion and pretend that I understand what's going on."