For an hour last night I watched the Frontline program on PBS reviewing the life and growing political motivations of the two presidential candidates, Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Those who have not seen it will want to make time for it. I would imagine it will be repeated at least once before the election, as it will likely be of far less interest after the election.
Whenever you delve into the early life of a public person or any other person for that matter, you are likely to find out many disturbing facts that may be seen clearly to connect with their motivation and behavior. Try to look seriously at your own early childhood trauma for example. Connect it to your behavior in later life. On second thought, maybe you don’t want to do that. Or, if you’ve already done that and worked it out, don’t repeat the exercise. It will have been painful enough to have done it once.
Having done this now for the two candidates, one is hardly surprised from the Frontline commentary to see troublesome early issues that affected the candidates in their early childhood or young adult years. At the same time, thinking about this even in the abstract leaves us with a bad taste, notwithstanding the idea that we all seem to understand clearly from the outset that we may all have childhood traumas that when revealed and reflected upon can be shown to contribute to both highly positive as well as highly negative actions later in life. The fact is that when one’s early life story that may have hard at the time, motivates one to become president, that’s a good thing–it’s certainly a more positive outcome than using those experiences as a motivation toward a life of crime.
A separate problem is what to make of the Frontline piece if you are trying to make your own decision about which of these two admittedly flawed candidates to vote for. In addition to Frontline, we have a stream of endless political adds most of which are not created by the candidates. Many of these are half truths and misrepresentations that we have little hope of sorting through especially after they have been repeated or worked over by additional right or left wing commentary on radio and television, and also in commentary on opinion pages of local and national newspapers.
Many citizens will make a decision on who to vote for on the basis of gut feelings. This may be a good thing since every time we are exposed to comments and reports and to special features like Frontline we become gradually more and more unable to distinguish truth from fiction. But we do watch the candidates and make decisions. All through the early campaign up until the first presidential debate we watched Mitt Romney in a self-sabotage mode, while in that first debate he managed a sensible, controlled performance. Most of it many say was a pack of lies and misrepresentations. On the other hand, President Obama seemed peculiarly unable to respond or to raise key points. It was as though “he didn’t want to be there” James Carville said. Indeed, if Romney continues to make clear and mostly reasonable statements in the debates, even if there are elements of untruth there, and the President continues to let Romney positions go unchallenged, the country will make the decision that the President does not want to be reelected and they will vote accordingly