Of course we don't like the idea of any campaign "banning" a journalist because the candidate doesn't like what was written or said about them. That's petty and wrong and disrespectful toward journalism.
And that's exactly what the McCain campaign was guilty of when it recently banned NYTimes columnist Maureen Dowd from the candidate's traveling press plane.
But it was Dowd's comment after the banishment that gave us pause: "It was disappointing because I didn't think John McCain would ever be as dismissive of the First Amendment as Dick Cheney."
We're torn because we can't think of a single elite columnist who we'd rather not have invoking the solemn rights of the Constitution in a press fight, simply because we don't think Dowd is a serious journalist. So we're not comfortable with her representing any sort of professional journalism community.
In fact, we're in heated agreement with Firedoglake commenter "JoeBuck":
McCain and his people are jerks, of course, but Dowd reveals what a total waste of column inches she is by her remark. Bumping her from the campaign plane because the campaign doesn't like something she wrote is juvenile and mean-spirited, but the First Amendment doesn't guarantee MoDo a plane ride. She has a prize position on the NY Times Op-ed page, and she basically puts out a high school gossip column, full of petty name-calling.
The right wing is in a frenzy about the fact that Gwen Ifill is working on a book about "emerging young African American politicians," which supposedly means she cannot be neutral during the VP debate she is moderating tomorrow night. Since the right wing is in a frenzy, we can be pretty sure the establishment media is about to join in.
Two things to keep in mind:
1) The October 7 presidential debate will be moderated by NBC's Tom Brokaw, who currently serves as NBC's liaison to the McCain campaign -- while spreading pro-McCain misinformation on Meet the Press. In fact, the McCain campaign hand-picked Tom Brokaw to moderate the October 7 debate:
Mr. Brokaw said he had been told by a senior McCain aide, whom he did not name, that the campaign had been reluctant to accept an NBC representative as one of the moderators of the three presidential debates -- until his name was invoked.
"One of the things I was told by this person was that they were so irritated, they said, 'If it's an NBC moderator, for any of these debates, we won't go,' " Mr. Brokaw said. "My name came up, and they said, 'Oh, hell, we have to do it, because it's going to be Brokaw.' "
2) CBS' Bob Schieffer moderated one of the 2004 debates, despite the fact that he is a longtime friend of George W. Bush who had previously acknowledged that his personal relationship with Bush made it difficult to cover him. Schieffer's brother was a business partner of Bush's before Bush became president -- and Bush made him an ambassador.
UPDATE: At the Huffington Post, Judd Legum notes that the Associated Press reported that Ifill was writing the book weeks before the McCain campaign agreed to her moderating the debate.
For the people he interviews? MediaBistro's Fishbowl D.C. notes that recently broadcasting from the campus of Ole Miss, Matthews interviewed a number of student members of the group Concerned Youth of America. One of them was Matthews' own daughter, although Matthews didn't inform viewers.
Sadly, as Cernig at Crooks and Liars notes:
It's such a small-beer breach of what passes for journalistic ethics nowadays as to go almost un-noticed, although in the halcyon days of journalism it would probably have gotten him fired or at least earned the censure of his peers.
TNR's Gabriel Sherman found it lodged inside Jill Abramson's weekend review of Bob Woodwards's new book.
We wrote about this last week; how right-wing bloggers, led by the mighty Jawa Report, set out to uncover the trivial mystery of who was behind a long-forgotten anti-Palin clip on YouTube.
We filled out our critique (here it is) and put it into context with regards to how far the bloggers have fallen since 2004, when they were toasting their CBS Memogate scandal.
Sammon, who helped gin up phony stories about Al Gore during the 2000 campaign, raises doubts about a story Biden has told in the past about a fact-finding visit to Afghanistan he made last winter, and how the helicopter he was traveling in was forced down in the mountains there.
Sammon includes the Biden anecdote in his article at Fox News online because he's trying to support a larger narrative that Biden has been making up, or exaggerating, stories about his military-based travels overseas. And that Biden has "raised eyebrows" with his Afghanistan story.
Here's Sammon quoting Biden:
"If you want to know where Al Qaeda lives, you want to know where Bin Laden is, come back to Afghanistan with me," Biden bragged to the National Guard Association. "Come back to the area where my helicopter was forced down, with a three-star general and three senators at 10,500 feet in the middle of those mountains. I can tell you where they are."
Having set the trap, Sammon then pounced: "But it turns out that inclement weather, not terrorists, prompted the chopper to land in an open field during Biden's visit to Afghanistan in February. [Emphasis added.]
Why the "but" at the beginning of the sentence, though? Go back and read Biden's description and see if he ever said he was forced down because of terrorists. Clearly he never made that claim. Even Sammon conceded, "Biden never explicitly claimed his chopper had been forced down by terrorists."
So what, exactly, was Sammon's point? The point seemed to be that Sammon caught Biden not saying something he never said.
Time's Karen Tumulty described an "underplayed story of the day":
On A17 of the Washington Post: The U.S. Attorney scandal now has a new prosecutor of its own, after a scathing report confirms that there were, indeed, political motives at work in the firings.
A17? That is, indeed, an underplayed story.
You know who else has underplayed it? Time magazine. Tumulty's post is the only Swampland mention of the "scathing report" that "confirms" the central question of the scandal: that the Bush administration fired the U.S. Attorneys for political reasons. Time's web page has no other mentions of the report, other than a reprint of an Associated Press article.
But that's nothing new: Time has been underplaying this story for more than a year and a half. When the scandal first broke in January 2007, Time Washington Bureau Chief Jay Carney mocked liberals for "seeing broad partisan conspiracies where none likely exist." He and his magazine then ignored the story for months, leaving the journalism to Josh Marshall and the TPM crew, among others.
And Time continues to underplay the story to this day, even as Tumulty chides the Washington Post for burying its coverage on page A17.
Earlier today, I noted that over at Swampland, Time's Michael Scherer posted a snide denunciation of Obama aide Robert Gibbs for making what Scherer claimed was a joke about John McCain's age, even though Gibbs didn't mention McCain's age at all. That was the second such post from Scherer in the past few weeks.
But, as several Swampland readers have pointed out in comments on Scherer's post, Sarah Palin has been making comments that could much more easily be seen as jokes about Joe Biden's age. Just yesterday, Palin said of Biden: "I've never met him before, but I've been hearing about his Senate speeches since I was in like second grade." Scherer's Time colleague Mark Halperin described that as an "age swipe." At the very least, it's a more direct reference to age than Gibbs' statement that McCain "zig-zags." And Sarah Palin isn't just a campaign aide; she's the Republican nominee for Vice President.
And yet Michael Scherer has not written an angry post denouncing Sarah Palin or suggesting that her comments might cost McCain votes in Florida.
That's about as clear as double-standards come.
And it comes on the heels of his embarrassingly wrong attack on Barack Obama (and defense of John McCain.)
We realize we're entering pet peeve territory with this topic, but we can continue to be amazed that reporters seem blind to the idea that having the first presidential debate on a Friday night pretty much guaranteed that viewership would be, relatively, soft.
The New York Times is latest to look right past the obvious.