I despise myself for writing this post.* But not as much as I despise myself for having tuned in to watch CNBC’s coverage of last night’s Iowa caucuses. I haven’t watched cable news since Kerry’s swiftboating. Come to think of it, I’ve only watched network news twice since 2004: both times in the wake of Katrina.

Still, like so many of my friends — and perhaps some of the readers of this site — I’m addicted to electoral politics. I can’t get enough information on the subject and never tire of talking about the campaigns, the candidates, and especially their prospective legislative agendas. So, like any addict, even though I knew that it would be self-destructive to do so, I turned on the television last night.

And, after four years away, nothing has changed. Check that, things seem to have gotten worse. If that’s even possible. I say this even though there’s a so-called meme in the blogosphere that I find tedious: that the leading political pundits in the mainstream media are “villagers,” meaning that they exist within an establishment echo-chamber, deafened by the clamor of blow-dried group-think and the din of their own professional self-interests. It’s not that I believe this is wrong; it’s just that the constant repetition of the critique wears on me.

But my heavens, Digby and Atrios are so very right. Diving back into the coverage last night was like shooting up bad smack.** There was, in the hours that I watched, no mention of issues at all. Or at least there was so little on the subject that it got drowned out by all of the sound and fury. I learned, most often from Chris Matthews, that Obama won because young women find him dreamy. Women, you see, are incapable of making decisions based on anything but the tingle a handsome Black man produces in their loins. I found out that Mike Huckabee lost a lot of weight and now runs marathons. Which news, I should add, provided fodder for a lot of really cumbersome — and apparently irresistable — metaphors. I learned that Obama is “incredibly handsome”*** and “magnetic”**** and wears beautifully tailored suits. (I also learned, I guess, that Chris Matthews is an aesthete, a real student of the masculine form. Which is fine, of course, but a bit jarring as he plays the role of pugnacious populist on tv.). I learned that John McCain, favorite of the villagers, did very well by winning 13% of the vote. McCain is on the hunt. Along with his 13% of the Republican caucus goers. The nomination is his. And I learned that Chris Matthews knows the word “dramatical.” As in, “Obama’s projectile [seriously] victory is dramatical.”

But here’s what I didn’t learn: anything at all about what any of the leading candidates think about issues. I didn’t, for instance, learn about Obama’s plans for health care (quite a controversial subject, if you ask Paul Krugman). I didn’t learn about Huckabee’s favored tax policies (so regressive as to be genuinely frightening; Christian charity notwithstanding). And I didn’t learn about McCain’s all-war-all-the-time foreign policy. Oh, and forget learning about Hillary, Edwards, and Romney. They’re losers. Toast. Fading specks in McCain’s rear-view mirror.

Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by any of this. But after my four-year hiatus from television news, I was shocked. So, bloggers of the blogosphere, you have my apology. Punditland is one nasty village. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to live there. All of that said, I’ll probably tune in less than a week from now for the coverage of New Hampshire. My name is Ari, and I’m an addict.

* Because it’s boring. And conventional wisdom. And boring conventional wisdom. But Eric, way back when we started this blog, suggested that it could serve as a kind of diary. So consider this my entry for the day after the Iowa caucuses. Okay?

** I have no idea if this is actually true, Mr. DEA agent. I’m extending a metaphor.

*** Perhaps a paraphrase. Actually, very likely a paraphrase. But maybe not.

**** Not a paraphrase. Unless it is. On second thought, perhaps a paraphrase.