Gotcha moments replace real work for the people

It is a sad commentary on our political times that, at a recent appearance, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen asked everyone in the room to introduce themselves not because she earnestly desired to meet everyone but because she wanted to see if one of her opponents had sent a “tracker.”

A tracker is someone sent to catch you in a gaffe, someone armed with a recording device who might even set you up for a gaffe with a loaded question. Of course, even a loaded question can be answered clearly with no problem, but that would certainly disappoint the tracker.

One of the most iconic tracker moments came in 2006 when Virginia Republican Sen. George Allen was tracked by a staffer sent by his Democratic opponent and Allen got silly and said:

“This fellow here, over here with the yellow shirt, macaca, or whatever his name is. He’s with my opponent. He’s following us around everywhere. And it’s just great,” Allen said.

Well, not great for Allen because he was savaged for using supposedly demeaning and insensitive comments, i.e., “macaca,” toward this tracker, who was of Indian descent. That was the end of Allen’s hope for re-election.

There’s nothing wrong with tracking and really nothing wrong with taping everything in hopes of a gaffe, but “wrong” isn’t the issue. Lots of things aren’t wrong but that doesn’t mean that, in a greater context, that they are right. The greater context in senatorial politics should be issues, not “gotcha.”

Certainly, one could wonder if issues were ever the … well, issue in politics on any level and perhaps they weren’t, but it seems, in the last decade, perhaps a bit more, it’s gotten worse and the “gotcha” moment is more significant than, say, a plan to balance the budget.

That’s a sad commentary on the state of politics, but it’s a sadder commentary on the future of this nation.