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Media Bites: Covering the RNC? The Media's Excuse for a Floridian Vacay

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Man, can you believe it's already been four years since the last Republican National Convention? I know I'll never forget that last one, listening enraptured as ol'... what's his face... give that speech.... about.... the things.

OK fine, so maybe presidential party conventions aren't that memorable. And yeah, maybe they are just vapid, perfunctory infomercials of very little practical consequence to the American political process, let alone this country's. And fair enough, maybe this year's GOP spectacle in Tampa is already being absurdly over-covered by the entire United States journalistic establishment, a gang whose more than sufficient reportage of American affairs Canadian newspapers are usually happy to mindlessly syndicate.

But all of that's hardly a reason to deny our pals in the Canadian press a free trip to Florida! I mean, Toronto summers, amirite?

Long story short, Tampa's crawling with Canadians at the moment, all of whom are seeking to justify their orange juice per diems with ever-more dazzling examples of skilled foreign correspondency. The Post's Andrew Coyne has taken some very nice paparazzi pics of Michelle Bachmann with his camera phone, for instance. And the Toronto Star's RNC blog has certainly offered up some revealing interviews with local lunatics. Then there's the crack team of investigative reporters at the Globe and Mail, who are doing truly great work ringing random people's doorbells in an attempt to find out where Sarah Palin's been hiding.

Oh yeah, and I guess they've been writing stuff too.

"Conventions matter, don't get me wrong," says a defensive Andrew Coyne in his Monday editorial, before launching into a exceedingly standard, cookie-cutter analysis of the presidential race that makes me wonder if Canadian pundits still do. The polls are tight right now, observes Andy, and in his expert analysis that means the "edge is still with Mr. Obama, but the momentum is with Mr. Romney." In other words: someone might win. Mimosa? Don't mind if I do!

Granted, Coyne's milquetoast analysis comes off as downright profound when compared to some of the commentary being offered by his multitudinous Canuck compatriots, most of whom seem eager to to live up to the "ugly Canadian" stereotype of snarky liberals who won't stop loudly judging all the unenlightened backwater hicks around them (presumably while tipping badly).

And why not judge! Today's Republican platform has "been dubbed the most conservative in the country's history," writes Tim Harper in the Toronto Star, -- presumably after doing the aforementioned dubbing himself. He is very aghast that America's second-place party is pushing for hideously draconian nonsense like declaring an official language, endorsing the Keystone pipeline, and slashing "unnecessary or ineffective" government programs. Thank God I don't live in a freaky hellhole where such grotesque ideas are seriously contemplated, thinks Tim.

Star buddy Heather Mallick is no less steamed, churning out a feisty screed against the GOP "war on women" that begins by citing an Onion article and maintains a similarly high standard of evidence throughout. "Republicans don't want women to have rights," she concludes bluntly, before noting how appallingly ungrateful it is for male politicians to show such disrespect for the health decisions of a gender "inside whom we were all carried for nine months." Yeah, because if there's one thing Republicans don't venerate enough, it's wombs.

What our progressive friends in the press can't seem to agree on, however, is precisely how these slack-jawed troglodytes matter to Canada.

Is observing the existence of Republicans an opportunity for self-righteous jingoistic pride at the fact that our right-wingers aren't nearly as bad ("even most conservative Canadians are appalled" by American righties says Jon Ibbitson in the Globe)? Or are we supposed to view Tampa as a glimpse of the horrifying Margaret Atwood-esque dystopia that Harper-rule will inevitably impose (since we know the Canadian right is "salivating" at the RNC horror show, in the words of Ms. Mallick)?

Here's hoping they can at least hash out a consensus before the hotel bar closes.

***

Now, the glitz and glamour of American politics is enough to make any foreigner jealous, but don't forget: Canadian government isn't really that different. For example, we also have a Senate! And ours is also depressing!

This week's sad tale of Senator Joyce Fairbairn, a 73-year-old Alzheimer's patient deemed too mentally incompetent to serve in an office she continues to hold anyway is undeniably a tragic one. Yet it says something about the reputation of her position that most editorials about her plight have to preface their analysis with warnings not to laugh.

Senatorial dementia is a "serious matter," even though it "might sound like the punch line to a thousand bad jokes" finger-wags the Ottawa Citizen. Serious indeed, agrees National Post boss, Jon Kay, so enough with the "callous-seeming social-media snickering."

While a lot of the weigh-ins on Fairbairngate have simply been stern scolds on the importance of caring for grandma, Kay sees the whole episode as evidence that the Senate itself may be decaying as swiftly as the good Senator's synapses. In fact, he can hardly think of an "episode that better summarizes the need for Senate reform."

I mean, what can you possibly call an institution so devoid of decency that a hapless partisan puppet with no capacity for independent thought can continue to enjoy a successful career simply by blindly obeying the commands of her party's domineering leadership?

Other than "the House of Commons," that is.