All three cable news channels, along with various other media, are reporting that John McCain is "suspending" his presidential campaign. But the news reports I have seen haven't established that this has actually happened. Has all campaign work -- GOTV planning, speechwriting, etc -- stopped? Are McCain campaign staffers streaming out of campaign offices all across the country, going home indefinitely? If so, it should be easy enough for news organizations to confirm that the campaign is really "suspending." Otherwise, media should probably stop reporting McCain's spin as fact.
Remember the Times' Sunday magazine valentine to Limbaugh in July that lovingly described the right-wing talker as, among other things, "a singular political force"? But that was only after the Times completely buried all the offensive and hateful things Rush has said over the years. (And only after the Times hired a Dittohead to write the profile.)
And that's been the media's M.O. for years when dealing with Limbaugh; whitewash the hate and present him as either being thoughtful or just an entertainer.
But as the Daily Howler got us wondering today, does the Times still feels comfortable with its description of Limbaugh as a "singular political force" (i.e. as a serious thinker) in the wake of his blatantly race-based smear on Barack Obama this week?
As the Howler asks, "Will the mainstream press corps ever speak about the foul mess [Limbaugh] maintains in their midst? Or will they decide, for the ten millionth time, that it's safer to keep their traps shut?"
Boy, this anti-Biden media narrative has really picked up steam. It has nothing to do with the substance of Biden the candidate, but rather the style. And doesn't that just perfectly captures the determined un-seriousness of campaign journalism?
Over at TNR, one of its its blogs mocked Biden's recent claim that a helicopter he was riding in during an Afghanistan visit was forced down. It "could teeter into Hillary-in-Bosnia territory," TNR announced. See, the assumption was that gaffe-prone Biden made up the silly story.
Except that he didn't. The helicopter story is accurate.
It just was not sustainable, writes Jack Shafer at Slate, who recalls the sunnier days in that relationship:
This, of course, is the same press corps that adored John McCain during the 2000 race, as this comprehensive study by FAIR shows. The press corps liked his honesty. They liked the access he provided them. They liked his maverick stance. They liked the way he made them feel. And they didn't mind cutting him slack whenever he acted like a regular politician-which he was, most of the time.
FNC producer, lamenting that the press restrictions surrounding Sarah Palin are "unprecedented." See HuffPost.
John Cole at Balloon Juice notes that the McCain's pushback against the NYT, and specifically the pushback coming from McCain's blogger Michael Goldfarb, would be taken more seriously if it were based in fact.
There's a new Rasmussen poll that finds that more Americans think Jim Lehrer, Friday's debate moderator, will "try to help Barack Obama" than think he will try to help John McCain. (The vast majority either think Lehrer will try to play a neutral role or are unsure.) Since poll results that find the public suspects liberal bias on the part of the media tend to get more media attention than results that find the public suspects bias in favor of conservatives*, you can expect to hear a fair amount about the Rasmussen poll over the next few days.
So it's worth keeping in mind Jim Lehrer's performance in previous presidential debates. A few weeks ago, I described his bungling (and, intentionally or not, strongly pro-Bush) behavior during a key portion of the last debate between Al Gore and George W. Bush in 2000.
The short version is that Lehrer helped Bush falsely blur the differences between Bush and Gore on the Patients Bill of Rights by falsely suggesting the two candidates agreed on the issue. Then, when Gore asked Bush a straightforward question about whether Bush actually supported the same piece of legislation he supported, Lehrer told Bush: "Governor Bush, you may answer that if you'd like." So, in his role as moderator, Lehrer gave viewers the false impression that the candidates agreed (exactly the impression Bush wanted viewers to have) then, rather than pressing Bush to clarify his position, he made it optional. Naturally, Bush declined.
A longer version is available here.
There's another reason to think Lehrer's handling of the debate may (intentionally or not) end up helping McCain. In 1996, Slate's Jack Shafer described Lehrer's style:
Yet, even though he knows that most politicians, CEOs, and activists who appear on his show are accomplished liars, he offers little in the way of interruption or contradiction.
Lehrer himself has said he doesn't think it is his role to say someone is lying, even when he knows that is the case. If the general media consensus that John McCain has run the more dishonest campaign is correct, Lehrer's style is likely to benefit McCain.
* In May, a CBS/New York Times poll found that only 8 percent of Americans thought the media had been harder on McCain than on other candidates, while 28 percent thought the media had been easier on McCain than on other candidates. You probably didn't hear about that poll result; the media ignored it.
Former New York Times reporter -- and Pulitzer-winner -- David Cay Johnston has some important suggestions for reporters covering the proposed Wall Street bailout:
In covering the proposed $700 billion bailout of Wall Street don't repeat the failed lapdog practices that so damaged our reputations in the rush to war in Iraq and the adoption of the Patriot Act. Don't assume that Congress must act instantly, as so many news stories state as if it was an immutable fact. Don't assume there is a case just because officials say there is.
The coverage of the Paulson plan focuses on the edges, on the details. The focus should be on the premise.
Much more here.
As a serious news outlet. It's an article about VP Joe Biden. Digby thinks pointing to the Drudge Report as an anything other than a GOP spin machine is quite lame:
Of course, the Drudge Report is covering the "back and forth" between Obama and Biden. It's creating a drumbeat to benefit the Republican ticket. It's what he does! His raison d'etre. When did the Washington press corps decide he was Walter Cronkite?