Beyond the Sound Bites

There are still some 18 months to go — more than 540 days! — before the next U.S. presidential election, slated to take place on November 8, 2016. The first primary isn’t even scheduled until next February. Yet eight individuals have already tossed their hats into the ring and announced that they are seeking the nomination of their respective parties, and at least 10 others are expected to do so in the coming months.

The road to the White House has historically been filled with fascinating twists and dramatic turns. Again and again, presumptive frontrunners have seen their campaigns implode, paving the way for relatively unknown candidates to surge to the front of the race. Hardened politicians have learned the hard way that an inadvertent gaffe, giving the wrong answer to a loaded question or — as in the case of Howard Dean — an ill-timed shriek can have disastrous repercussions.

Muckrakers, including journalists affiliated with mainstream media, are spending an enormous amount of time and energy putting every inch of a candidate’s past under a microscope, desperately trying to come up with something damaging — real or imaginary — with which to create attention-grabbing headlines. In some cases the material they discover sheds light on the personality of the candidate; in many others, the discovery is all but irrelevant and the ruckus it sparks is essentially smoke and mirrors.

In the process, what is really important is often overlooked — that is, information about the candidate’s position on an array of crucial issues. While campaign managers and media consultants prefer that candidates utter nothing more comprehensive than clever and often meaningless sound bites, it is imperative that voters get to know what the contenders have to say on matters that mean the most to them.

In the Features section of this issue, we present an interview with presidential hopeful Rand Paul, the first of a series of conversations with the men and women contending for the White House in the 2016 election. B’ezras Hashem, we hope to help our readers get beyond the advertisements and sound bites and explore the candidates’ positions on the real issues.