Tuesday, November 16, 2010 12:27 PM
Under the Democratic-led Congress, action against climate change went essentially nowhere. Under the coming Republican-led Congress, it appears to be headed backward.
Republican Illinois Representative John Shimkus, who according to the New York Times Green blog stands a dark-horse chance of chairing the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has gone so far as to suggest that climate change won’t destroy the planet because God promised Noah it wouldn’t. His 2009 comments, recounted here by London’s Daily Mail, sent a shockwave of amazement through the progressive and environmental blogospheres:
Speaking before a House Energy Subcommittee on Energy and Environment hearing in March, 2009, Shimkus quoted Chapter 8, Verse 22 of the Book of Genesis.
He said: “As long as the earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, will never cease.”
The Illinois Republican continued: “I believe that is the infallible word of God, and that’s the way it is going to be for his creation.
“The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth. This earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”
Speaking to Politico after his comments went viral, Shimkus stood behind them, clarifying that while he believes climate change is occurring, he thinks it’s folly to spend taxpayer dollars trying to stop “changes that have been occurring forever.”
See Shimkus’ 2009 remarks on the Bible and climate change in this video:
UPDATE 11/19/2010: At least one brave Republican in Congress concedes that global warming is real and should be aggressively addressed. There’s a problem, though: He’s just been voted out of office.
Sources: New York Times Green, Daily Mail, Politico
Friday, June 19, 2009 5:14 PM
Back in 2005, smart people believed that Karl Rove and his neocon operatives had achieved a small but durable majority in American politics. Rove’s strategy of pandering to the Republican base and viciously attacking the Democrats had changed the political landscape, and progressives like Thomas Frank and Paul Waldman assumed that Democrats needed to be more vitriolic and polarizing to survive. In their 2006 book The Way to Win, Mark Halperin and John Harris asked, “Where is our Karl Rove?”
“To reread the major political books from the years around Bush’s reelection is to be plunged, as if into a cold pool, back into a world of Democratic gloom and anxiety,” Ronald Brownstein writes for Democracy Journal. With the benefit of hindsight, Brownstein reviews the panicked myopia that captured the Democratic psyche.
Though many of the books Brownstein reviewed provided trenchant analysis, none of them saw that predicted the disaster that would become the Republicans in Bush’s second term. They also missed the fact that Rove’s polarizing tactics would give Democrats the opportunity to create a lasting majority of their own.
“Today,” according to Brownstein, “it is the Democrats who have the greater opportunity to establish a lasting advantage.” Brownstein breaks down the demographic reasons why the Republicans lost power and the Democrats gained the electoral edge.
Now it’s the Republicans who are scrambling for a coherent message to combat the Democrats, instead of the other way around. USA Today’s Susan Page recently wrote about a poll showing a lack of clear leaders in among Republicans. According to Page, a divided Republican party is struggling to answer “Who speaks for the GOP?”
The irony of Page’s analysis, pointed out on the Politico blog, is that Page wrote a nearly identical story in 2001, simply switching the parties in power. At that point, the article read, “No clear leader of Dems, poll says.” In it, a little-known political strategist named David Axelrod, who later served as one of Barack Obama’s top political advisers, assured Page that in politics nothing last forever. Axelrod dismissed the polls saying, “It's the nature of being the party out of power.”
Sources: Democracy Journal, Politico
Monday, December 29, 2008 3:35 PM
Barack Obama’s leadership style, as he’s defined it so far, is remarkably similar to the ideas behind the progressive parenting movement, Andie Coller observes for Politico:
The “change we can believe in,” it turns out, shares a lot with the revolution in thinking about child-rearing sprung from the work of Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler, which centers on principles such as mutual respect — or what the president-elect has called “the presumption of good faith” — fostering independence (“Team of Rivals,” anyone?), and encouragement (“Yes we can!”).
Coller notes that Obama’s “love and reason” parental leadership model stands in stark contrast to President Bush’s “more no-nonsense, SuperNanny-style approach to his job (‘It’s in their nature to test the boundaries and it’s up to you to make sure they don’t cross the line’).”
“The most respectful—and effective—approach to parenting consists of working WITH children rather than doing things TO them,” Alfie Kohn, author of the book Unconditional Parenting, told Coller. Parents who work with their children “talk less and listen more," Kohn continued. “They regularly try to imagine how the world looks from the child's point of view. They bring kids into the process of decision-making whenever possible. ‘Doing to’ parents, on the other hand, impose their will and use some combination of rewards and punishments in an attempt to elicit obedience.”
Image by acaben, licensed under Creative Commons.
Thursday, December 18, 2008 11:54 AM
Caroline Kennedy made her interest in filling Hillary Clinton's senate seat official this week. While her uncle Teddy is keen on the idea, the dynastic nature of her bid has provoked a resounding backlash in the blogosphere. Among the anti-Caroline offensives being mounted online is this: Caroline Kennedy is less qualified for the Senate than Sarah Palin was for the White House.
Ouch, that's gotta hurt. But is it true?
After confessing, “I’d never thought I'd write this sentence,” Noam Scheiber of the New Republic goes out a limb, asserting, “Palin is vastly more qualified than Kennedy,” even considering the higher office Palin sought. Rod Dreher of the Crunchy Con blog seconds Scheiber's thoughts, adding that “anyone endorsing the Camelot princess for the US Senate owes Sarah Palin a huge apology.”
In a back-and-forth with the ladies of Slate's XX Factor blog, Emily Yoffe takes a different angle on the same point: “However ill-prepared Palin was for the vice presidency, she was chosen because she got elected governor of Alaska. And she did that without money, connections, or a famous name.” Yoffe argues that Kennedy’s appointment would reinforce the have and have-not dichotomy that rules our society. Many have-nots “think there's no point making an effort because everything is already wired for the haves,” writes Yoffe. Kennedy's appointment could help fortify that barrier to upward mobility.
Kennedy’s defenders in the Caroline vs. Sarah debate are likely to make an argument similar to this one by commenter elaine1, posted in response to a Politico story: “Don't compare Caroline Kennedy to Sarah Palin. Caroline is intelligent, savvy, and dignified.” Also standing up for Kennedy is Bernie Quigley on The Hill’s Pundits blog, who contends that Kennedy has shown “true and natural leadership” and that her experience as a mother, lawyer, and philanthropist “is the kind of varied experience the Senate calls for.”
If Kennedy does score the appointment, it won't be just because she has a famous name, but because her particular famous name is one Americans have a uniquely persistent, romantic fascination with. Ruth Marcus, in a recent column for the Washington Post, effusively (and without a hint of irony) sums up that sentiment: "[W]hat a fitting coda to this modern fairy tale to have the little princess grow up to be a senator."
Tuesday, December 16, 2008 9:51 AM
You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that in Iraq, having a shoe chucked at you, as President Bush did on Sunday in Baghdad, is a huge slap in the face. If you’re still wondering why, Brian Palmer at Slate breaks it down: shoes are a choice weapon of disrespect “because they’re so dirty.” Though it’s unclear where the tradition originated, “Arabs—and perhaps Iraqis in particular—throw their shoes to indicate that the target is no better than dirt.”
Palmer goes on to explain the significance of feet in various cultures, noting that George W. isn’t the first member of his family to be sullied by shoes: “After the Persian Gulf War, Saddam Hussein installed a mosaic of President George H.W. Bush on the floor of the Al-Rasheed Hotel. Hussein delighted in releasing images of foreign dignitaries stepping on Bush's face.”
Disrespect aside, the shoe incident may be “the best thing that’s happened to Bush in a while,” John Dickerson opines also for Slate. The shoe is being interpreted by opponents and supporters of the Iraq war as a sign of the conflict's failure or success, Dickerson writes, and he analyzes what the reignited popular debate could mean for Bush in his twilight days. Dickerson expects, if nothing else, “a spark of patriotism will kick in when some Americans watch the tape.” If that’s the case, perhaps Bush is looking forward to the farewell he’ll receive from protesters who, according to Politico, now plan to pelt the White House with shoes on his last day in office.
Image by Van Damme M., licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 10:37 AM
The Democrats decided Sen. Joe Lieberman’s fate Tuesday, granting him what was widely viewed as a political pardon, or “punishment via feather duster,” as the Wall Street Journal put it, for his vigorous support of John McCain’s presidential bid. But Politico’s Glenn Thrush points out an important curiosity about Lieberman's slap on the wrist:
Some Democrats have sniped at Joe Lieberman for not grilling the Bush administration hard enough as head of the homeland security committee.
He gets to keep this job.
Democrats have (mostly) offered praise for his position on the Environment and Public Works Committee, where he has criticized the Bush administration’s global warming policies.
He loses that job.
The Guardian opines that “Lieberman’s loss of the environmental panel spot effectively removes him from the front lines of the climate change debate,” even though he pushed congressional action to combat global warming before it was politically profitable. Lieberman introduced the Senate’s first climate bill in 2003 with McCain, which proposed a cap and trade system and was voted down. Most recently, he co-sponsored the Climate Security Act with Virginia Sen. John Warner, which was also defeated.
Thursday, November 13, 2008 12:37 PM
After 9/11 we heard a lot about the death of irony, but after an initial period of mourning, humor prevailed and even thrived in the troubled early aughts.
But with the departure of the president who gave political satire its all-time easiest target, and the arrival of an unflappable and extremely popular president-elect, will practitioners of political satire run out of fodder?
Of course not. The Daily Show’s ascendancy coincided with Bush’s increasingly disastrous presidency, but Jon Stewart & Co. won’t suddenly be irrelevant just because Bush is. “Assuming the Daily Show can only be funny under someone like George W. Bush gives far too much credit to the outgoing President and is obscenely insulting to the writers of the Daily Show,” writes Matt Tobey on Comedy Central’s blog. “As if there wasn't plenty of failed Bush-based humor from shittier sources than the Daily Show.”
Meanwhile, the South Park boys pulled an all-nighter after the election to complete their extremely timely Wednesday broadcast, in which overzealous acolytes of Barack Obama see his victory as license to riot drunkenly in the streets, and Obama’s campaign team shows its true colors as an upscale band of jewel thieves a la Ocean’s Eleven.
These comedy institutions are bellwethers of the general categories into which Obama Humor will fall, at least for now: Poking fun at the extreme fervor of Obama’s supporters, and pointing up the absurd paranoia of Obama’s opposition (much like the New Yorker did all those months ago.)
The reliable Onion covers those satirical bases and more, with headlines like “International Con Man Barack Obama Leaves U.S. With $85 Million In Campaign Fundraising” and “Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job”.
There’s also the hilarious animated video below, from Get Your War On creator David Rees, making the rounds. (Consider it a sequel to the New Yorker cover.)
And when Obama inevitably falls short of the astronomical expectations set for him, satirists will pounce. The Daily Show’s John Hodgman told Politico, “As much as the show is fake news, its soul is very sincere, borne of a desire that everyone shares, that we don’t want to be lied to. If there is a whiff of insincerity [Obama] will be taken to task.”
Monday, November 10, 2008 2:10 PM
The flip of a coin could have the final say in the hotly contested Minnesota Senate race between incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken, according to Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Richie. Some 200 votes currently separate the two candidates, and a recount will likely take place. If Coleman and Franken somehow tied in the recount, Richie told Minnesota Public Radio, “I believe there is a coin toss. We don't have provisions for re-elections.”
Friday, October 31, 2008 1:52 PM
Unlike most of the electorate, some political reporters are not eager to wake up on November 5 with the longest campaign in history a good night’s sleep behind them. “It's kind of like, this is who I am now,” Andrew Romano, a Newsweek blogger, tells the New Republic. “[S]o the idea of the campaign being over and not doing a politics blog is a little bit like, who am I after this election?”
Politico’s Ben Smith shares Romano’s sentiments. “It's so built into my system, that it's going to be hard to stop,” he tells TNR. “It's really pathological.”
But the tight psychological grip campaigns hold on reporters won’t be missed by all those covering the political beat. After the last presidential campaign, CNN correspondent Candy Crowley tells TNR it took her “a good month to stop waking up in the middle of the night in a panic that I've missed something.” Matt Bai of the New York Times notes that some reporters have been on the trail for nearly a year: “There are guys who went out to the primaries in November, December, and thought they'd be done in February or March, and they just never came home.”
Reporter weariness recently caught the critical eye of the Columbia Journalism Review, who took the New York Times to task for what they deemed an instance of lazy campaign coverage. Questioning the relevance of a Times cover story, CJR warns reporters not to “take out their election fatigue on voters.” Just pen a few more good stories, guys, then you can come home and sleep. . .or just keep blogging.
Thursday, October 30, 2008 11:13 AM
The field of institutions and public figures endorsing Barack Obama is getting really crowded, and it’s a motley assortment. Some fairly unlikely personalities are in the tank, including Christopher Buckley, Christopher Hitchens and Colin Powell, as well as conservative publications like the Record.
Spend a few minutes perusing the Wikipedia page listing Obama’s endorsements, and you might visualize a rowdy cocktail party whose guest list includes editors from nearly every major U.S. newspaper (including the Chicago Tribune, marking its first endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate in its 161-year history); hundreds of current and former governors, mayors, and legislators; CEOs, actors, rock stars, and authors; and even the plumbers’ union (presumably Joe the Plumber was not consulted since, well, he’s not a plumber).
The New Yorker provided a characteristically thorough endorsement of Obama. The New York Times argues for the relevance of newspaper endorsements. And there’s a nifty map illustrating the distribution of this year’s newspaper endorsements and comparing it with 2004’s.
Several cast members of HBO's The Wire are stumping for Obama. (Gbenga Akinnagbe, if he’s half as terrifying as the drug lieutenant he played on the series, will make a very compelling canvasser). An absolutely fabulous coterie of fashion designers has pledged allegiance. And ostensibly apolitical publications have weighed in, most recently the science magazine Seed.
Leading the ironic-endorsement pack is onetime McCain campaign advisor Charles Fried, whose decision to back Obama is partially due to McCain’s “choice of Sarah Palin at a time of deep national crisis” (via Talking Points Memo).
All of which begs the question: Who’s in poor old John McCain’s corner? The list of newspapers endorsing him is considerably shorter than Obama’s. There’s Steve Forbes, of course. And then there’s the small faction of Hollywood conservatives (say it ain’t so, Gary Sinise!).
Image courtesy of Philip (Flip) Kromer, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008 12:40 PM
The events, and often even the non-events, of the 2008 election season have spawned a growing group of die hard political junkies, whose habit for constant information about Obama, McCain, and Palin (sorry Biden) is nursed by the legions of reporters and bloggers working the 24-hour news cycle. But with less than a week remaining in the horserace, what’s actually worth reading? Here’s a brief, and by no means comprehensive, guide to political writing for the home stretch.
First, a few from the New Yorker: Particularly fit for mention on this blog is James Wood’s “Verbage” essay, detailing the Republican Party’s “deep suspicion of language.” A thorough piece on Senator Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican, is an antidote to the hyper-partisan tone that is sure to dominate the campaign’s last throes. And an essay from David Sedaris is likely the only place you’ll find the choice in this election compared to choosing between chicken or a “platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it” on an airplane.
From last Sunday’s New York Times, Frank Rich’s column may help ease the anxiety of Obama supporters worried that racism will decide this election, arguing that “white Americans are not remotely the bigots the G.O.P. would have us believe.”
In the blogosphere, Politico’s Jonathan Martin and Ben Smith seem to require little sleep. Their blogs are updated almost constantly and are two of the greatest information sources for full-fledged election addicts. (They also prove that it is possible to be too informed.) But Politico does stellar reporting too. This week one piece that stuck out explained McCain’s negative media coverage with detailed and self-reflective treatment, which I haven't seen done elsewhere.
Looking back a bit, Michelle Cottle’s blog post, “Spare Me Your Reverse Snobbery,” for the New Republic remains one of my favorite rants of the season, and though it was published in late September, it's still relevant. So is the year-long perspective offered up by Alec MacGillis in a recent piece for the New Statesman, which thoughtfully chronicles the reporter’s time on the campaign trail with Obama, beginnning with the Iowa primary last fall.
If you need laughs more than thoughtfulness at this stage, Wonkette will surely deliver. They’re snarkier than Sarah Palin and refer to John McCain by the pet name Walnuts. What more could you want?
Add your suggestions to the list in the comments section below.
Friday, October 17, 2008 10:29 AM
Barack Obama may have a leg up on John McCain when it comes to TV advertising and video games embeds, but McCain has the advantage when it comes to robocalling, reports Wired. Shaun Dakin, who Wired describes as an “anti-robocall activist,” collected data showing that the McCain campaign ran 12 automated political telemarketing efforts in the past month and a half, compared to Obama’s four.
Recipients of the calls are greeted with automated messages like this one, sent to Talking Points Memo by a voter in North Carolina:
I'm calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after surviving attempted abortions—a position at odds even with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama and his liberal Democrats are too extreme for America. Please vote—vote for the candidates who share our values. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202 863 8500.
Will McCain’s army of tele-bots march him into the White House? Probably not. Wired cites a Pew Research Center survey that found that almost half of the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who received robocalls hung up on the calls. According to Ben Smith of Politico, “Robocalls are a relatively inexpensive way to deliver a negative message, and used to be seen as an under-the-radar way to do it, though that's no longer really true.” Indeed, scripts and audio of McCain’s robocalls are popping up all over the Internet, though there's scant mention of what the Obama campaign's calls contain. And unfortunately for McCain, coverage of robocalling isn't translating into positive press.
Image by Joe Wu, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008 12:04 PM
If you thought some quality time with your Xbox might help take your mind off the election, think again. The Obama campaign is doing everything it can to make sure you can’t escape them, including embedding their ads in video games. According to the Associated Press, Obama’s ads now appear in 18 Xbox games that are updated over the internet. A Politico reader sent Ben Smith a variety of screenshots of the ads, which tell voters that “early voting has begun.” They seem to run a fine line between brilliant and creepy, and blog comments show a mixed reaction.
“Frankly, this is smart of the Obama campaign,” Mark Kraft comments on Smiths article:
It reaches a good target audience with the right message—vote early—and will generate a lot of attention online. It makes those who are technology savvy out there think that Obama ‘gets it’, and is forward thinking. Lastly, it will help to get and keep younger voters involved towards the end of the campaign. Anything that gets them out from behind the game console is a good thing.
An anonymous commenter on the same article is troubled, however: “Kind of reminds me of communist China in the days of Mao when his likness [sic] was plastered everywhere.”
Commenting on the Huffington Post, cnobody dislikes the idea of ads in video games all together: “you pay for the game and then you pay a fee to play people online. you're paying to be advertised to. that's what i object to.” But commenter anokie sees the ads as a smart way to prime the youth vote of 2012: “this is GENIUS!!!!!!!!!!!.... talk about cultivatiing[sic] an electorate...think about all the 14 year olds that in 4 years, when Obama is up for relelection[sic], have already heard of him......GENIUS!!!!!”
Monday, September 22, 2008 4:32 PM
Now that Sarah Palin’s meet-and-greet with the media is almost a distant memory, McCain aides are taking their turn in the ring, and the gloves are off. In the second big McCain-media tussle of the fall campaign, McCain strategist Steve Schmidt unleashed fiery attacks against the New York Times, calling the venerable paper “a pro-Obama advocacy organization” and claiming that “it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization.”
Schmidt's fury was sparked by a story about McCain campaign manager Rick Davis’s ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The Times reported that Fannie and Freddie paid Davis almost $2 million while he served as president of an advocacy group the companies formed to fight increased regulation, and that Davis held the position primarily because of his close relationship with John McCain.
Bill Keller, the Times' executive editor, responded to the campaign’s accusations in an email to Politico:
It's our job to ask hard questions, fact-check their statements and their advertising, examine their programs, positions, biographies and advisors. Candidates and their campaign operatives are not always comfortable with that level of scrutiny, but it's what our readers expect and deserve.
According to Politico, McCain aides also held a conference call encouraging reporters to hit Obama harder. “But,” writes Ben Smith, “the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.” (Are we sensing a pattern here?)
When Politico pressed the campaign about the inaccuracies, they got this response:
One McCain aide, Michael Goldfarb, said Politico was “quibbling with ridiculously small details when the basic things are completely right.”
Another, Brian Rogers, responded more directly:
“You are in the tank,” he e-mailed.
Of course, it is a reporter's job to identify such "small" falsehoods. But, no matter, the media-bashing continues. Until next time. . .
Image by soggydan, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, September 19, 2008 3:26 PM
There are some ads political campaigns never intend to air themselves, but that doesn’t mean you won’t hear plenty about them. Rather than doling out cash to beam these ads into American living rooms, campaigns route them directly to the online and cable news media to shape the day’s story lines. The ads themselves are the story.
According to Politico’s Jonathan Martin, a look at ads airing nationwide on a Sunday in mid-September illustrates how this messaging strategy works. Martin turned to Evan Tracey from the Campaign Media Analysis Group for the numbers: On one Sunday, Obama aired 1,589 commercials to McCain’s 1,490. But the ads that were being talked about most by journalists—Obama’s ad with a huge '80s-style cell phone painting McCain as out of touch, and McCain’s pack-of-wolves spot depicting sexist attacks on Palin—never aired as paid spots.
Of course, that doesn’t mean these spots didn’t get airtime. As raw material for cable news and online chatter, these sorts of ads are aired by talk shows and posted on websites at no cost to the campaigns. Former Al Gore aide Chris Lehane told Martin, “The ads have become far more provocative and entertaining, making it really hard to ignore them. . . there is such a comprehensive media environment between the traditional media and online media that these pieces get picked up and end up impacting the daily news cycle. Think news cycles within news cycles—like the small hands of a clock turning the bigger hands—and that is how these spots work.”
Another key strategy in the campaigns’ efforts to drive media story lines: Give reporters very little access to the candidates. In a related article about the campaigns’ relationship with the press, Politico contends that the reporters traveling with Obama and McCain have “little impact on the broad campaign narratives and daily story lines that supply most voters with their impressions of the candidates. . . A combination of technology and iron message discipline by heavily centralized campaigns has consigned these reporters—once the storied “boys on the bus”—largely to feeding off the public material available to almost anyone over the Web, with very little interaction with the next president of the United States.”
Is this why we hear so much about lipstick and pigs?
Image by Inside Cable News, licensed under Creative Commons.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008 5:49 PM
Jews in Pennsylvania and Florida have been receiving deceptive political phone calls asking: Would it affect your voting choice to learn that “Barack Obama called for holding a summit of Muslim nations excluding Israel if elected president?” What if you learned that “the leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yousef, expressed support for Obama and his hope for Obama's victory?”
Jonathan Cohn of the New Republic received one of these misleading calls and tried to dig up who was behind the smear. The supervisor gave the name Central Marketing Research Inc., but would give little information beyond that. Ben Smith of the Politico got reports that the phone calls came from "Research Strategies" and were directed at people in the traditionally Jewish Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, and in Key West, Florida.
The phone calls have been called “push polling” by a number of news organizations. Some have pointed out the similarities between the phone calls against Obama and the smears that hurt John McCain campaign in the 2000 election. David Kurtz, writing for Talking Points Memo, points out that the polls seem to be part of a real opinion poll “testing the effect of fear-mongering about Obama on Jewish voters,” rather than a traditional push poll. In either case, the smear seems to indicate that as distasteful as things have gotten in this election, they’re probably going to get worse.
UPDATE (9/17): The Politico’s Ben Smith reports that the Republican Jewish Coalition, a group behind other Obama attack ads, has taken responsibility for the poll.
Friday, September 05, 2008 2:11 AM
In the wake of John McCain's surprising VP pick, the media's rush to answer the question “Who is Sarah Palin?” was quick and intense.
But when news broke that her 17-year old unwed daughter was pregnant, the scrutiny became both personal and political, sparking intense debate about what’s fair and foul in campaign coverage.
Palin has dominated the headlines of nearly every major news outlet and many minor ones for the last week. You might think the McCain campaign would welcome the spotlight shining on someone other than Barack Obama, but instead, they're outraged. They claim the media's treatment of Palin—which has included stories about her pregnant daughter, questions about her qualifications for the job and the McCain campaign’s vetting process, inquiries into ethics scandals under investigation in Alaska, and examinations of her record—is sexist, liberally biased, and out of line. The campaign is even now refusing to answer further questions about Palin's vetting.
Surely the McCain campaign can't be surprised that voters and reporters want to know more about a woman whose name few outside of Alaska even recognized two weeks ago. But would the questions being asked of Sarah Palin be asked of a male candidate? And has the media gone too far?
Here's a round-up of opinions on the key fronts in the Palin media wars. What's your take?
Palin and John McCain and the Republicans deserve every column inch, every broadcast second of scrutiny they're getting. I believe—unlike Barack Obama—that members of a candidate's family are fair game once a candidate thrusts them onto the public stage—as did Palin when McCain presented her as his pick for vice president in Dayton, Ohio, last Friday. The eagerness with which politicians deploy their children as campaign props stands as an open invitation to the press to write about them. —Jack Shafer at Slate
The spin du jour is that her choice reflects poorly on Candidate McCain because she wasn't properly vetted. Yet this seems to be false. . . . On Monday, Time magazine's Nathan Thornburgh wrote from Wasilla, Alaska, that Bristol Palin's pregnancy had been known by virtually everyone there, with little made of it. But what do these private family matters have to do with Mrs. Palin's credentials to be Vice President in any case? —Wall Street Journal, Review & Outlook
They have said this was Bristol’s decision and we should honor that. . . . The reason why I think it’s fair game is Sarah Palin is on record saying she would veto abortions for women even in the event of being raped. So what she is in essence saying: Respect my family’s ability to make this decision and elect me so that I can keep your family from having the same opportunities. —Jon Stewart, September 3, on the Daily Show
What we’re dealing with now, there’s nothing subtle about it. We’re dealing with the assumption that child-rearing is the job of women and not men. Is it sexist? Yes. —Georgetown professor Deborah Tannen, quoted by Politico, responding to questions about whether Palin's maternal responsibilities are compatible with the VP job.
Palin is simply not known. McCain's staff says the press is punishing her because pundits so desperately want to be in the know. But leaking has its benefits, one of which is that her flaws might have been scrutinized and even dismissed ahead of time by the press. —David Folkenflik at Media Circus, NPR
We have asked pathetic questions like: Who is Sarah Palin? What is her record? Where does she stand on the issues? And is she is qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency? We have asked mean questions like: How well did John McCain know her before he selected her? How well did his campaign vet her? And was she his first choice? Bad questions. Bad media. Bad. —A sarcastic Roger Simon at Politico
Image by buddhakiwi, licensed under Creative Commons.
Wednesday, September 03, 2008 2:48 PM
With rumor and scandal dominating political coverage lately, publications known for celebrity gossip are honing their political beats. The National Enquirer recently made headlines after breaking the news of the John Edwards affair. Now Michael Calderone of Politico reports that the gossip magazine is also taking credit for influencing the story that Bristol Palin—daughter of VP nominee Sarah Palin—is pregnant. National Enquirer editor David Perel said, “I definitely think we triggered the announcement.” The magazine has three reporters in Alaska right now, uncovering more news of the Palin family.
Not content to let all the political gossip go to the National Enquirer, the new issue of US Weekly features Sarah Palin on the cover with the headline, “Babies, Lies, and Scandal.” The celebrity blog Jossip comments, “All that's missing? ‘Sex.’ But it's implied.”
Also missing from the US Weekly story are the aliens, a beat that has gone virtually uncovered since the Weekly World News stopped publishing earlier this year.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008 10:43 AM
Over at Politico, Daniel Libit has assembled a guide to “undisciplined messaging,” the new buzzword for verbal gaffes by the three main presidential contenders. Throughout this year’s seemingly interminable race to the White House, every aside and impromptu remark by the candidates has been pounced upon, dissected by the media with unprecedented scrutiny, and exploded into non-issues that dominate the news cycle, often to the exclusion of any substantive discussion about more important issues like, say, the war in Iraq or the ailing economy. Libit takes us on a tour of this election cycle’s undisciplined messages, from Hillary Clinton’s strange assassination remark to Barack Obama’s offhand “sweetie” to various comments by staffers and surrogates, considering whether each example betrays a more sinister undercurrent of racism or sexism, or is simply a bizarre off-message excursion.
Image by aussiegall, licensed under Creative Commons.
Friday, March 28, 2008 9:38 AM
Should journalists vote? The debate may be “one of the most tedious subjects in journalism,” writes Politico editor John Harris, but it’s one he recently hashed out with two of his colleagues anyway. Mike Allen, the newspaper’s chief political correspondent and a non-voter, kicks things off:
I’m part of a minority school of thought among journalists that we owe it to the people we cover, and to our readers, to remain agnostic about elections, even in private. I figure that if the news media serve as an (imperfect) umpire, neither team wants us taking a few swings.
Harris, an unashamed exerciser of his franchise, responds by disentangling the sacred ideal of journalistic objectivity from everyday fairness.
A journalist can cast votes and have opinions, even strong ones, and still be fair. We do it by letting people have their say, by not putting our thumb on the scale with loaded language, and by having the modesty as reporters to admit that information is always fragmentary and it is our role to tell stories but not to pretend that we are society’s High Court of Truth.
Image by billaday, licensed under Creative Commons.
Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.
Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!
Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $6 and get 6 issues of Utne Reader for only $29.95 (USA only).
Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 6 issues of Utne Reader!