The Concord (N.H.) Monitor, on technology and the presidential campaign (Jan. 12) — It started with Nixon, or more accurately, with the 1960 televised debate between a handsome and charismatic John F. Kennedy and a sweating Richard Nixon, whose 5 o ‘clock shadow made him look like a crook. Technology continued to change presidential election campaigns, and it‘s doing so in ways that are likely to soon make New Hampshire‘s first-in-the-nation presidential primary irrelevant. Worst of all, there may be nothing New Hampshire can do about its diminished importance but grin and bear it.
The 2012 Republican presidential primary was largely brought to voters by Fox News. The network‘s many candidate debates and the scores of appearances it gave some of them gratis did two things. It meant that candidates no longer had to spend much money, relatively speaking, because they got so much free air time. And it made the face-to-face retail politicking that New Hampshire is famous for nearly obsolete.
Three candidates, Jon Huntsman, who held more than 150 events in the state; Rick Santorum; and Buddy Roemer campaigned in New Hampshire relentlessly. Meanwhile, their rivals, save for Mitt Romney who has a summer home here, appeared in the state sporadically.
Huntsman, after a surge credited in part to his strong performance in the final debate, finished a distant third to Romney and Ron Paul.
Santorum, the near-winner of Iowa ‘s caucus, tied for fourth.
Roemer, who failed to be included in the debates, was a footnote.
Even allowing for sour grapes, there‘s more than a bit of truth in Roemer‘s comment to a Laconia Daily Sun reporter. “I’ve gained a lot being here and I don‘t put New Hampshire down, but it‘s not a strategy that I would recommend to any other candidate ever again,” Roemer said. “The world has changed. It‘s Internet driven, it‘s television-dominated and politics has adjusted.”
The 2012 candidates met less often with newspaper editorial boards and civic groups, and most held fewer town hall meetings. Such encounters subject politicians to questioning from people who’ve done their homework and place them in situations beyond their control. It‘s far safer, and less costly, to reach voters via Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media, and that‘s what candidates did.
The changed nature of presidential campaigns marks a loss for New Hampshire voters ...
The Boston Globe, on sanctions against Iran (Jan. 12) — In recent weeks, Republican presidential contenders have repeatedly attacked President Obama for being soft on Iran. Mitt Romney criticized Obama for his failure to put “crippling sanctions” in place to take out Iran‘s suspicious nuclear program. Not to be out-hawked, Rick Santorum crowed on a Sunday talk show that if he were president, he‘d announce airstrikes against Iran‘s nuclear facilities.
These political attacks are likely to get more heated as tensions with Iran rise. On Monday, Iranian television announced that an Iranian-American had been sentenced to death for “spying.” Iran blamed the United States and Israel for a mysterious explosion that killed a nuclear scientist in Tehran.
The GOP concern about Iran is understandable. But the candidates ‘ rhetoric flies in the face of what is really happening on the Iran issue — that Obama just signed into law the harshest set of sanctions ever against Iran. The new law, aimed at cutting off Iran ‘s oil industry from the world economy, is so tough that Iranian officials have called it an act of war and threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz through which most of the world‘s oil flows. ...
The Day of New London (Conn.), on ethanol matter (Jan. 12) — How truly amazing to see Democrats and Republicans in Congress finally doing something right by allowing the $6 billion annual tax subsidy for the corn ethanol industry to expire. Also ending is the heavy tariff that was aimed at keeping cheaper and more eco-friendly sugar-cane-based Brazilian ethanol out of the country.
Is it too much to ask that Congress also end its mandate forcing refiners to blend up to 15 billion gallons a year of the corn ethanol into gasoline, increasing to 36 billion by 2022? Probably, but the official end of the subsidies and tariff is at least a start. ...
The Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer, on academic performance (Jan. 7) — Over the last decade or two there has been a lot of emphasis placed on improving the academic performance of American students. There have been countless studies, standardized tests and tremendous pressure from the federal government on down to individual parents to improve our schools and show measured results.
The ultimate goal is to produce the best and brightest students in the world to maintain our superiority in an increasingly competitive global community. The conventional wisdom seems to be that academic studies must take precedence over all other activities, such as music, art and gym class. These other pursuits are being cut back, especially in this era of tight budgets, so students can spend more instructional time on math, science and writing.
These subjects are important, to be sure, but the latest research indicates that over-emphasis on academics at the expense of “extracurricular” activities is not having the desired effect. ...
Ever since the No Child Left Behind Act mandated annual tests in reading and math, with scores determining which schools receive funding and which ones are shut down, the relentless focus on performance has seeped down to the earliest levels of education.
Many schools now spend more time drilling for exams and less time supporting creative, child-driven learning. ...