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Crash Course

(Mike Gravel for President)
NBC's "Today Show" has a new feature: "Candidate Cribs." It is, according to Matt Lauer, "a chance to get to know the human side of the presidential candidates." The first installment featured rock-throwing ultra-long shot Mike Gravel driving a checker cab, just like he did when he was a student at Columbia University. He talks about getting out of Iraq; he rails against "the phoniness" of politicians; and, well, he gets in a car accident.

It's tempting to mock a feature like this: These touchy-feely features focus primarily on the candidate's personality, after all, instead of their stance on the issues. But so what? The fact is, no one is going to watch a detailed, dry feature on Mike Gravel's health care plan. What "Today" is offering instead is a piece that gives us a little of his personality and history – while allowing Gravel to make a few substantive points along the way. (In between the bleeps he offers during the fender bender.) The segment strikes me as a watchable, responsible compromise between the commercial demands of morning television and the journalistic responsibility to inform the public. You can decide for yourself by clicking here.

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