News organizations will soon start to produce debate preview stories. Those stories will provide a test of whether the recent flurry of news reports debunking false claims by McCain and Palin were simply a series of stories, or the emergence of a narrative about their truthfulness.
Here's an excerpt from the Associated Press' preview of the presidential debates in 2000: "Gore, who has been staging mock debates under a massive model shark at Mote Marine Laboratory in Florida, cannot afford self-aggrandizing exaggeration (as in, 'I took the initiative in creating the Internet'), mean attacks or smarty-pants condescension."
Anyone think the AP will write anything similar about McCain and Palin?
Today's Washington Post reports that "Barack Obama's campaign accused Sen. John McCain of running a 'disgraceful, dishonorable campaign'" and that Joe Biden "also joined in accusing McCain of shameful tactics" and that "Obama said the Republican had let 'lies and spin consume a campaign that should be about you, should be about the issues, the great challenges of our time.'"
Those are serious allegations. But the Post article doesn't give readers any indication of what Obama and Biden were talking about, or whether their criticisms were based in reality. It gave readers no way to assess the validity of the descriptions of McCain. Has McCain been using "lies and spin" in his campaign? If so, that's the story - and if not, readers should know that Obama is lying about McCain lying.
As it happens, pretty much every major news organization in the country, including the Washington Post itself, has recently pointed out that McCain and his campaign aren't telling the truth, so Obama's reference to McCain lying seems accurate. But either way, the Post has a responsibility to help readers assess the validity of the charge, not to simply quote it. Instead, the Post article gives the impression that Obama and Biden are simply hurling baseless insults at McCain. Coincidentally, that's exactly what John McCain wants people to think:
Earlier in the day, after the Illinois senator made similar remarks at a stop in western Colorado, McCain pushed back. "Friends, Senator Obama's been saying some pretty nasty things about me and Governor Palin," McCain said. "That's okay; he can attack if he wants. All the insults in the world aren't going to bring change to Washington, and they're not going to change Senator Obama's record."
So, Barack Obama says John McCain is lying; John McCain says Barack Obama is just offering "insults." By not exploring the factual basis for what Obama says, the Post is, in effect, taking McCain's side.
Instead of including examples of what it knows are dishonest claims by McCain, which would help readers assess Obama's charges, the Post simply refers to "a string of tactical successes by McCain and his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, over the past two weeks."
Those "tactical successes" include a series of claims that the Washington Post has previously concluded are false. Calling them "tactical successes" without any further explanation seems like a textbook case of putting lipstick on a pig.
News orgs are all over a McCain adviser's contention that the Arizona senator, through his legislative leadership, helped create the Blackberry. But why does the media have to dig up the old Al Gore-invented-the-Internet tripe?
From AP: "Move over, Al Gore. You may lay claim to the Internet, but John McCain helped create the BlackBerry."
Al Gore did not "lay claim" to the Internet. That wasn't true in 1999 when the press, and the GOP, peddled it. And it's not true today.
Goes to Politico: "Cash-poor Obama says no to Reid."
Article is about a little intramural jockeying for cash that's going on within the Democratic Party. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Read reportedly asked the Obama campaign to share some of its $77 million to help Democrats win more senate seats. According to Politico, the Obama camp declined.
The problem is with the "cash-poor" part of the headline. Obama just raised $66 million last month, shattering the previous monthly fundraising record. His campaign now has $77 million to spend, while it continues to raise tens of millions more each month. How is Obama cash poor? That makes no sense. It's inaccurate and paints a false, unflattering picture of the Obama campaign.
The term cash poor suggests the Obama campaign doesn't have enough readily available money on hand to run its campaign. Actually, it has $77 million on hand.
A better headline would have been maybe, "Frugal Obama says no to Reid." But Politico can point to no evidence to suggest the Obama campaign is cash poor.
It's like a trend or something. Check out Gawker for the vid highlights.
Does what it does. (h/t Atrios.)
For liberal blogger traffic. See AmericaBlog.
We always thought it was goofy when media insiders (i.e. Mark Halperin) announced which candidate won a given week of the campaign cycle, as if campaigns a) are sporting events, b) have clear winners and losers within a pre-determined time schedule, and c) need to be handicapped that way.
By recently Politico, the Beltway daily, has been crowning the the winner of each campaign day. What's creepiest of all is that voters are virtually invisible to the calculations the Politico editors make as they pretend to decipher, in real time, the unfolding events and exactly how they're playing out across the country.
Guys (and gals), why can't you just let the campaignunfold without constantly inserting yourself into the story by telling us what to think. In other words, please just get out of the way.
Time's Karen Tumulty says they're rather low. Glenn Greenwald disagrees. (Can you say FISA?)