Thursday, November 01, 2007

Kucinich, UFOs and the Media

Mac Tonnies is angry about how the Kucinich UFO question was handled at the Democratic debate. He writes:

This sad excuse of a "debate," in which Kucinich is essentially asked to apologize for seeing an object in the sky he didn't understand, typifies the mainstream response to a phenomenon that, by all counts, qualifies as a genuine scientific enigma. (For his part, Obama diverts attention from the subject at hand with consummate finesse, his condescension greeted by applause.) [entire post here].

Actually, I see it differently, and here's why:

1. The question itself wasn't looking for an apology. It was straight-forward, with the usual moderator run-on intro. If it seemed like Russert was looking for an apology, I would suggest that ufologists are a bit too touchy. They want people to ask questions, and here was a question. If there was a little bit of smarm on Russert's part (and honestly, I didn't really detect any more smarm than normal from TR), that's a small price to pay.

2. Kucinich has no hope of ever being President, but I thought he answered the question about as well as time and circumstance allowed (remember, this was a "rapid fire" round in the debate). He mentioned that a UFO is simply a UFO, and by extension not necessarily an alien spacecraft. He also got in the good line about more Americans having seen a UFO than support the president - catchy, if not quite true, at least according to the statistic Russert countered with, i.e. 14% of Americans have reported seeing a UFO. Is that stat true or not? I don't know, but as Kucinich indicated at the end, it's an awful lot of people regardless. He also name-dropped Jimmy Carter, although most people accept that Carter saw Venus, and not a genuine UFO. Still, not bad - if he was better informed, he would have added a few other names and occupations, including Kelly Johnson, Senator Richard Russell, Paul Hill, and any dozen of the scores of top USAF personnel who have reported UFOs. Better yet, he would have told people to purchase a copy of "Best Evidence" when it's out on DVD next year (yes, that's a shameless commercial plug!).

3. Mac also takes a dig at Barrack Obama's comments when he said, in essence, that we should focus more on problems down here, but what does Mac suggest that Obama (who no-one should confuse with presidential material at this point in his career - experience should count more than sound-bites and a good back-story), should have said, given the circumstances, i.e. he's trailing Clinton in the polls, and he had about fifteen seconds to answer? Besides, I happen to agree with the gist of his answer, which was "who knows what's out there, but we should focus on fixing our own myriad problems down here, which is what I'm going to do if elected President". I would probably have given the same answer, given the circumstances, and the priorities of a candidate trying to gain his party's nomination. Save the talk for manned missions to Mars, or the question of whether or not there's life out there, for another day, when you have more time, and when you might actually be in charge.

So, I think, all things considered, the debate was a good thing for "ufology" (and even for people interested in the serious study of the UFO phenomenon). Yes, there was some laughter from some in the audience, which just shows that there are Democrats who are as stupid as Republicans (did anyone who lived through the Carter presidency really doubt this?). Still, you have to walk before you can run, which in the case of the UFO phenomenon means that you're still going to have to put up with some chuckles every now and then. The way to silence the chuckles is to use facts and figures, and to point out that some very bright people have seen UFOs over the years, along with a pretty significant number of their fellow Americans.

That's not a bad place to start the process of re-building the public image of the UFO phenomenon.

I never thought I'd say or write this, but good for Dennis Kucinich.

Paul Kimball


Anonymous said...

I agree with you Paul. With all of the blog coverage on DK's experience/answer, it has provided a good opportunity to place calm, well-reasoned comments in the comments sections of plenty of newspapers and political blogs in response to mocking coverage.

Dustin said...

I agree that it was nice to see him answer in a way that didn't make him seem any kookier than most people already think he is.

What aggravates me about the clip is that it was thrown out there to embarrass him in the public eye, not to inform the voting public.

No one bothers to do things like this anymore, so call me crazy, but having read everyone's platform, Kucinich is almost certainly the least crazy, most down to Earth, most "presidential" in the true sense of the word, candidate out there. But, you're right, he'll never be President.

My political science degree and common sense tells me the system is broken, but, it's what we've got.

Mac said...

Uh-oh -- we might have another "blog war" on our hands!

Actually, I think your breakdown makes perfect sense within the parameters set by our two-party system. But, like Dustin, I think the system itself is beyond repair and begs reinvention.

NickJones said...

I don't see that Russert was fishing for an apology from Kucinich for his UFO sighting, but painting him as a loony (as many think of Shirley MacLaine herself) for the "connection to the heart" and "message in the mind" items. I thought Kucinich handled it with good grace, and humor - I wonder how much the Exeter, NH, reference went over people's heads.
I still wish he had had time to answer the rest of the question; I'd be most interested in hearing it.