(Host) As the dust settles after the New Hampshire Primary, commentator Bill Seamans offers some “morning after” reflections.
(Seamans) For them, it surely has been a very difficult several weeks. The increasing stress, the drama, the searing focus of national attention on every word they spoke. They visited the local diners in the big cities and the smaller towns. They walked along Main Street – they took the political pulse of Iowa and then New Hampshire. Now they are dissecting the body politic to determine what they did right or what they did wrong…
Kerry, Dean, Edwards, Clark, Lieberman???? No, not them…I’m talking about the pundits, the aristocracy of Journalism who came up from their illustrious chambers in Washington and New York to join us on what is called The Street – a populist term the political soothsayers apply to us ordinary people.
Now the pundits, or punditocracy, are said to be a group of powerful and very influential political commentators. It even has been said that it’s really the punditocracy who choose the presidential candidates because of the influence their commentaries have over what the public thinks about the candidates.
A less gentle opinion comes from an anonymous sage who once said: All the pundits ever do is come down from the hills after the battle is over and shoot the wounded. After Iowa, among the wounded they had to shoot were themselves, and some blamed the polls – the only exceptions I know of were Robert Novak on CNN’s Capital Gang and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol who deserted the boys-on-the-bus and picked Kerry to win Iowa…
From a cynical perspective, this was an example of how what has been called Beltway Conventional Wisdom can sometimes overwhelm the judgement of our most professional pundits. Mark Halperin, ABC’s very astute political director, noted that newspersons who covered the candidates every day began reporting Dean’s Iowa slippage and signs of Kerry’s and Edwards’ surprise surges before the Beltway pontificators became aware of a possible upset.
As the wounded pundits approached the New Hampshire primary I noticed a remarkable exercise in play-it-safe-noncommittal fire-escape journalism. Words like maybe, perhaps, it’s possible that, but on the other hand, it’s a very tight race, and above all – those New Hampshire people are so darn unpredictable.
Anyway, the battle is over in New Hampshire and I’m reminded of an editorial cartoon – a mother explaining the political drama to her little boy in front of a polling booth—She says, We go inside, dear, and make a pencil mark on a piece of paper next to the name of the man we want to be president – and then all those crazy people will go away…
This is Bill Seamans.
Award-winning journalist Bill Seamans is a former correspondent and bureau chief for ABC News in the Middle East. He spoke to us from our studio in Norwich.