Given that National Geographic has an article (via Scout Prime at First Draft) on the design flaws in the rebuilding of the New Orleans levees, and that folks in the Gulf Region are still working on digging themselves out from under the mess that was left behind from Katrina, this from Bob Herbert was a welcome read.  It's behind the NYTimes firewall, so I want to quote a bit of it for everyone's reading today:

…Mr. Edwards, who announced his campaign for the presidency in the Ninth Ward, has stood by his commitment to make poverty one of his big campaign issues. I mentioned that poverty has not gotten much attention from the national media, and asked why middle-class Americans should care about the issue.

“First, you should care because it’s a moral issue,” he said. “It tells us something about the character of our country. And, by the way, I think most people do care about it. And second, you should care because if you want to see the American economy grow and strengthen over time, the strength and breadth of the middle class is a critical factor. When we have middle-class families struggling on the edge, falling into poverty or near poverty, those things weaken the American economy.”

It’s not a good sign, said Mr. Edwards, to have so much of the middle class hanging on by its fingertips at the same time that the ranks of the poor are growing. There are about 37 million Americans living below the poverty line, five million more than when President Bush took office.

In an essay in the recently published book “Ending Poverty in America,” which he co-edited, Mr. Edwards wrote: “The real story is not the number but the people behind the number. The men, women and children living in poverty — one in eight of us — do not have enough money for the food, shelter, and clothing they need. One in eight. That is not a problem. That is not a challenge. That is a plague.”…

It’s true that promises from politicians come at us like weeds on steroids. But the nation would get a clearer picture of the character, integrity and leadership qualities of individual candidates if the press would focus more intently on matters of substance.

As a rule, we’re much more interested in gaffes than in the details of a candidate’s position on a complex issue. We’re much more interested in sound bites than in sound policy.

That should change. We should give the candidates time to speak. And we should listen.

More substance. Less fluff. Wouldn't that be a nice change in political reporting for all of us? And, while we are at it, how about some follow-up on the mess that is still the Gulf Coast? Because the folks who live there are our fellow Americans and, honestly, the hot air and unfulfilled promises of the Bush Administration deserve a helluva lot more scrutiny than candidate haircuts and early campaign staffing ins and outs. Oversight and accountability — it's not just for Congress any more.

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com