KATHLEEN PARKER: Debates exhausting the insignificant

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON – Oh, to be 12 again, the better to enjoy the presidential debates.
Or rather, the better to appreciate the Twitterverse, where America’s obsessive-compulsive, attention-deficit population holds the zeitgeist hostage with tweets and memes that infantilize political discourse and reduce the few remaining adults to impolitic fantasy.
In this, the first social-media presidential election, the debates have come to resemble reality shows during which virtual audiences cast ballots (and aspersions), hiccoughing their impulse-reactions to every word and movement into the intellectual vacuum we charitably call the body politic.
Two debates in, and the complex issues of our day have been reduced to a large yellow bird and binders full of women.
The problem isn’t only with the debates themselves, but the simultaneous critique by the world’s largest party – social media. The cleverest commenter gets a free, if short, ride on the Fame Wheel, usually at the expense of Mitt Romney, who, let’s stipulate, is not the likeliest presidential choice of the Twitter generation.
It doesn’t help that Romney is so … giving. During the first debate, he delivered Big Bird, one of his targets for funding cuts along with public broadcasting.
Next came the “binders full of women.” Before the debate was over, the hashtag #bindersfullofwomen was ricocheting through the Twitterverse. By morning, “binders full of women” was the lead topic on talk shows and continues to be a multimedia punch line.
I defer to Time’s Mark Halperin, who doubtless spoke for many of us when he said on “Morning Joe”: “The binder thing is what’s wrong with our politics.”
Ridiculous, in other words.
By contrast, it seems fair to mention, women staffers in the Obama administration have reported feeling marginalized, according to Ron Suskind’s book “Confidence Men.” One even described the White House as a “hostile workplace.”
The Obama campaign couldn’t be more delighted with “Bindergate,” which dovetails nicely with the narrative created by Obama’s team that Romney is waging war on women. Not all women see things this way, the evidence of which is the movement of women voters toward Romney.
Romney can be awkward. His word choices are sometimes odd. But the idea that this particular phrasing was so jarring to some women that they got digital vapors is nonsense. Twitter may keep us entertained, but it can also make us ninnies.
So much ado about nothing leads one to wonder what else might be going on. Perhaps Obama foreshadowed these events in his acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic convention when he said: “If you don’t have a record to run on, then you paint your opponent as someone people should run from. You make a big election about small things.”
File that one in your binder full of politics.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.

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