Monday, June 30, 2008

Reason #2398 the press bothers me

A week or so ago, the public editor to the Times offered a well-deserved rebuke of (civilization ruining) Maureen Dowd, for her unfair treatment of Hillary Clinton. Unfortunately, that did not mean that Dowd would be relegated to her proper place in the press world, which would mean that her writing would be filling the pages of Maxim, People or Glamour.

Not to fear, however, as intrepid colleague-Gail Collins- publicly rushes to Dowd's defense:

As a Times columnist, I never envisioned myself writing a letter to a fellow resident of the paper’s opinion section. But I feel compelled to respond to your assault on Maureen Dowd.

Your complaint about Maureen seems to be that many supporters of Hillary Clinton found her columns offensive. As a former editorial page editor, I can absolutely assure you that supporters of many, many candidates from both parties have found Maureen’s columns offensive over the years.

The sharpness of her wit makes her commentary particularly painful to those who are on the receiving end. That’s also why so many readers love her and exactly what The New York Times pays her to do.

When the public editor laces into an opinion page columnist for making fun of a controversial political figure, it sounds like a suggestion that all of us tone things down. I hope I’m hearing wrong.

What I think this shows is two things. The first is the mindlessness with which members of the pundit class view criticism. They have one metric- are people from both sides angry? This is just stupid. Rather than splitting it down the middle, writers like Dowd would be far better served to take a look at the nature of the criticism. The complaint from the left is not that she skewers too sharply, it is that her view on the political stage is written for a grade school audience.

The second is that this episode shows quite clearly, that the pundit class doesn't do introspection. The problem is NEVER them.

End of June prediction

You might notice that I have added a link to the right-hand side for the blog 538. This is a really great place to go for polling info and for predictions and, as of now, the folks over there are predicting a big win for Obama in November.

I, however, am not so optimistic. I think this is going to be an incredibly close election with a very good chance that McCain pulls it out. Why? Because McCain enjoys a relationship with the press that no other major politician enjoys. They love him and will not cover him in a critical light. This is very reminiscent to the way that the press treated Bush, except they managed the press through fear and not through camaraderie.

We have already seen a few examples of how this is working itself out on the campaign trail. For example:
  1. The post below- McCain's military record cannot be questioned
  2. Similarities between Bush and McCain- Josh Marshall has a lovely rundown on how the media has made it clear that McCain is not like Bush
  3. McCain's dust up with the FEC- He has broken campaign finance law but there is barely mention made of this.
  4. McCain's wife- Terry Heinz had to report all of her income in 2004, but Cindy does not have to offer full disclosure.
  5. C@#tgate- while this is a rumor, the press has happily spun thinner ones against Obama.
In an election where everything should point to a landslide, we would be foolish not to focus on the press coverage of either candidates. It is going to play huge in November.

The Great Wes Clark Treason Comment of 2008

Oh my f-ing word. I really don't have much to add to this, in terms of what exactly Clark said or what the reaction has been. I think any sane person will recognize that this is just all very silly.

The part that is a little more interesting is how the media reaction to this comment differs from the reaction to the rumors regarding Obama's background. Wes Clark made no disparaging comments about McCain's service (in fact, he praises him at length earlier in the interview), all he was saying was that McCain does not have any command experience during wartime. Which (I think) is an important contribution to the debate, and if the press had half a mind to treat the American populace like adults, we could reasonably discuss the merits of the claim. Like it or not, McCain is campaigning heavily on his military background, so he the first one to make it an issue. However, the press has gone batty over what Wes Clark said (here, here, here) and has equated the comment to swiftboating McCain.

Now, contrast this reaction to the one provided by the press over whether Obama is a secret Muslim, Marxist, homosexual, America hater- which are actually still talked about as potential problems for Obama. Instead of leaping all over these baseless claims, the great Commentariat sit and wonder if it is going to be a problem for Obama.

Hence, if you are keeping score at home:
Asking if John McCain's military background is actually something that relates to his performance as president: TOTALLY OUT OF BOUNDS
Wondering aloud if the baseless rumors regarding Barack Obama's background are going to damage his chances in November: A-OK.

Testing the saddle again

Lots of stuff has happened since the last time I graced these parts, namely the birth of my first child. But, with the prez election coming up in such a short time, I figured if I didn't add my two cents to this horrorshow, I would probably go crazy. Hopefully my other two contributors will follow along.