You can bitch about German political chat-show hosts like Sandra Maischberger or Anne Will all you want. But trust me, people — they look like geniuses next to the oaf who shapes American political discourse, Tim Russert. Here’s how he moderates a Democratic Presidential debate:
"There’s been a lot of discussion about the Democrats and the issue of faith and values.* I want to ask you a simple question. Senator Obama, what is your favorite Bible verse?"
When Obama finished his answer, Russert said to the other candidates, "I want to give everyone a chance in this. You just take 10 seconds." Predictable banality ensued. A foreign visitor unfamiliar with our presidential campaigns might have scratched her head and said, "This is how you decide who will lead your country?"
Alas, it is. If only I were a famous journalist, I’d ask them for their favorite verse from the Bhagavad Gita.**
* This "discussion" refers to the suspicion that Democrats (who are by and large anything-but-radical, mainstream church-going bourgeois reformists) do not openly discuss God and the Bible and their faith enough, and therefore may not be as devout as Republican politicians (claim to be). For reasons that have always mystified me, this issue is considered important by many American voters.
** An American presidential candidate who could actually name a verse from the Gita would, of course, be doomed. By the way, my favorite Bible verse is Leviticus 14:14 — as if you had to ask!