I was overcome by great jealously while watching all three debates
between American presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, as well as the speeches that followed them.
I was jealous because their elections campaign deals with all the issues that are not dealt with around here: Healthcare and mortgages, pension funds and alternative energy issues, complex economic plans and an in depth discussion regarding the invasion of Iraq and the war on terrorism.
We tend to patronize the Americans as we would do to friendly but somewhat dim-witted relatives. In our eyes they are perceived as a superficial and naïve people addicted to McDonald’s and to sweet Hollywood comedies. However, their elections campaign shows the exact opposite: It is a contest between two brilliant people who assume that the audience listening to them is intelligent enough to grasp complex issues.
When was the last time you heard Israeli politicians engaged in a serious discussion over any issue? When have they dared adopt a position that could damage them just because they believe in it? When was the last time any of them surprised you with some kind of original statement? (Notwithstanding retirement interviews.)
Our entire public debate in recent years has been reduced to empty declarations, drafted by advertising and public relations professionals, regarding the person who will divide Jerusalem, or the one who doesn’t speak English, or that inexperienced woman. Instead of going into detail, everyone hides behind vague statements as much as is possible. I think they are truly against terrorism, or something like that.
Once I sat at dinner with one of our most senior politicians, who explained with utter seriousness that it would be better for citizens of the country not to know his views, because they would not be able to understand them. One of those present asked him what the public should go by when voting then. “Forget about it,” said the politician dismissively, “the people may be smart, but the public as a whole is dumb. They vote from the gut, not from their head.”
Today I am sorry that I did not tell him what went through my head at that moment: If the voters are dumb, what does it say about him when they vote for him?