Local television is an important medium. It does, however, have some serious limitations.
Television functions best when the action is kept in narrow focus. Place two people in a heated debate on a television screen and the medium can be extremely effective. The words can be digested, the facial expressions studied and a value judgment made.
But when television attempts to spread itself to a scene as broad as the Last Supper, the result is a modern minstrel show.
That's what happened last Saturday night when seven candidates for governor dutifully lined up at a long table for a question-and-answer session with the press.
Since this was Yuma, they were interviewed by what appeared to be the few reporters who remained alive in that godforsaken town.
I was struck first by the silliness of the entire exercise.
Second, it struck me as more than curious that all the candidates had actually made the trip to Yuma for this specious event.
As far as I have been able to ascertain, Yuma is the most desolate mid-size city in Arizona or the nation.
It is a ridiculous place for anyone to remain who is not a prisoner of the federal government.
Yuma is too hot. There is too much concrete. The entire area is almost bereft of trees.
And it is one of those remarkable places, like Flagstaff or Cottonwood, where you can say there is no best restaurant.
If trapped in any of these places, you'd better hope that you run across a McDonald's.
There is not a single thing about Yuma that can recommend itself to the human spirit or even a Republican candidate.
For this reason, I worry a little about the mental faculties of any candidate for governor who would heed the summons to appear.
It is, after all, the place where Governor Rose Mofford took her great fall from the speaker's platform. The poor soul was never heard from by anyone in the state again.
Gene Stallings, the Phoenix Cardinals football coach at that time, who accidentally bowled her over, has also disappeared from the scene.
This bizarre political forum was not something a serious person should have to bear.
Perhaps it was due to the setting that the candidates were even sillier than usual.
These are a few of the things they promised:
Dave Moss, a Democrat, said he wanted to build a canal to Yuma from the West Coast to turn the place into a seaport.
Bob Barnes, a Republican, said he wanted to become governor and take a 20 percent cut in pay to help the economy. Barnes did not mention that he is presently unemployed.
Fred Koory, a Republican, said that schoolchildren should be taught about the dangers of AIDS but then added that he did not want them told how the disease is contracted.
Terry Goddard, a Democrat, agreed wholeheartedly with every question put to him.
Sam Steiger said the whole process of running for office is demeaning. He was the only realist, although in that context I suspect it did him no good.
The whole evening was a waste of time for both viewers and candidates. This is clearly an inefficient way to choose a governor.
In such an atmosphere, it's no wonder that the candidate who attracted the most attention to himself was the former Mormon church bishop and disgraced ex-governor, Evan Mecham.
The gnomish Mecham is like a lightning rod. Put a microphone in front of him and he is sure to spout something unkind, uninspired or unpalatable.
For years now, Mecham has demanded that people believe that he is neither insensitive nor an ignorant racist. And all during the same span, he has continued to mouth racist platitudes with a wink and a nod to his fellow bigots and a salute to the American flag.
Some say Evan Mecham may not really be an evil man. If not, then I'm curious to know the reason he continues to act like one.
The wonder is why reporters persist in baiting Mecham.
His ridiculous remarks are clearly the product of the basic beliefs with which the man has been brought up.
Someone once called him an ethical pygmy. He is also an ignorant lout who is too stupid to be rated a dangerous demagogue.
There was a time when Mecham's assumption of both moral superiority and political expertise was infuriating. By now, however, it has all become more than a little sad.
Sad for him. But sadder for us.
Perhaps his next campaign can be for mayor of Yuma. Mecham and Yuma. A perfect match.
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Yuma is a ridiculous place for anyone to remain who is not a prisoner of the federal government.
Fred Koory said that children should be taught about the dangers of AIDS, but then added that he did not want them told how the disease is contracted.
Put a microphone in front of Mecham and he is sure to spout something unkind, uninspired or unpalatable.