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Steve Almond Headshot

Dear Barack

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Dear Barack,

Remember how, during your last debate, Senator Clinton accused the media of being biased against her? It registered as pretty self-pitying at the time. But what happened? The coverage turned in her favor. And why? Because the media, as an institution, is incredibly defensive and guilt-ridden and insecure. The right-wing pundits have played on this for years, accusing them of having a liberal bias. But they don't have a liberal bias. They have a bias toward capitalist self-preservation. All they care about at this point is market share. I mention this because you're going to need to mention this if you if you want to change the course of the discussion about your recent description of frustration in small-town Pennsylvania.

I implore you to stop defending yourself and apologizing. Instead, try this approach.

"By now many of you have heard about my rash outbreak of candor regarding the frustrations -- and yes, even bitterness -- of certain Americans who feel economically betrayed by the political system. You have also heard Hillary Clinton call my comments "elitist" and "demeaning" and "out of touch." You musn't blame Senator Clinton. She would like very much to win this election, and she has no chance of doing so without vilifying me. Senator McCain has gotten in on the act, as well. It's not surprising they would find an alliance. After all, Senator McCain has committed himself to preserving the Bush tax cuts for the richest Americans, and Senator Clinton and her husband, as we recently learned, earned 109 million dollars over the past few years. That's how deeply those two feel the pain and frustration of working-class America.

Fortunately for them, they have another powerful ally: the men and women of our vaunted free press. They're the folks who have fanned this into a fake controversy. They've done so because that's the only way they know how to cover campaigns: to treat them like popularity contests, or steel cage matches. It's all about money and poll numbers and the meanest thing said each news cycle. It's about some fake brawl they can stage to keep their audience enthralled.

But it's not about policy. No, it's never about how we're going to solve the common crises of state. How we're going to end this senseless war in Iraq. How we're going to provide health care and rebuild our schools. How we're going to battle climate change by building a green economy.

It used to be that the press was considered 'the people's representative in Washington.' Today, they're Washington's representatives to the people. Virtually all they do is parrot the talking points and cynical attacks of the politicians they cover. They pretend to be some high and mighty impartial moral authority. But they've become part of the inherent corruption that plagues Washington, part of the endless cycle of attacks and counter-attacks that solves nothing. That merely suspends us in a state of perpetual grievance and collects whatever profits can be had.

The only way to fight this, to bring about change in this country, is to tune out the noise. The next time you hear some fancy pundit blabbing about one of these fake controversies, Tune It Out. Insist that the candidates -- myself and Senators Clinton and McCain -- talk about the policies and issues that actually affect you. Make us earn your vote. Because otherwise, you're going to wind up with a president who ignores the American people, who wages war when he wants, who neglects our looming environmental crises, who takes care of his rich buddies, who couldn't care less about the poor and the jobless.

Is that really what you want for yourself and your children?"

Yours in frustration (and yes, even bitterness),

Steve

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