In the Russell Crowe movie "Gladiator," there's a scene in which Maximus gets tossed onto the floor of the Colosseum into a swarm of hulking warriors and roaring tigers, and the crowd, smelling blood, leans forward in anticipation. Maximus, though, ends up carving everyone else to pieces. The crowd falls silent. "Are you not entertained?" he shouts.
Maybe I spent too much time watching conventions over the past two weeks, but I thought of that scene every time I heard a TV talking head toss out the fortnight's most unappetizing phrase: "red meat." As in, "Boy, Obama/Palin sure threw those folks some red meat." The term is yet another effort to turn nebbishy politics into primal bloodsport, and the implication is that we're all a bunch of mouth-breathers who think issues are for sissies—that insulting our opponent is part of the American fabric.
The result? Too many speeches with too much red meat, not enough meat and potatoes. Between now and Nov. 4, let's not talk about "red meat" again unless we're having it for dinner.