Morris appears on the opinion pages of the Boston Herald to announce that John McCain can still win this election. And that McCain's climb isn't really that daunting because lots of candidates have pulled off White House comebacks, just like McCain can.
The hitch is that Morris has to reinvent the recent past to make the claim stand up. We know Morris is no stranger to fiction, but this bout of creative writing (i.e. fabricating) seems especially noteworthy.
Yes, McCain's a long shot ,Morris admits, announcing that the Republican is trailing by nearly 7 points in the national polls. But that's okay, he reassures the faithful:
it is not too late for the Republican to pull out a victory. Three times in the past 30 years a presidential race shifted dramatically in the final week.
Wow, really? Three times in the last 30 years somebody has come back from as far back as McCain "in the final week" and won the White House? Well, technically, no. In fact, nobody in the last 30 years has come back from nearly seven points down "in the last week" to win the election. And, I'm guessing nobody ever will.
But let's watch Morris reinvent the past.
*"In 1980, Reagan came from eight points behind to a solid victory by winning his sole debate with Carter in the last week of October."
*"In 1992, Clinton, who had fallen behind in the polls because of the pounding he was taking over his liberalism and propensity to raise taxes, surged ahead of Bush when Special Prosecutor Lawrence Walsh announced that he was indicting Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, an indication of Bush's possible complicity in the Iran-Contra scandal."
*"And in 2000, Bush's 3 to 4 point lead in the polls was erased over the final weekend when reports surfaced that he had been cited for DWI 20 years before and had not revealed the fact to the public. Bush still won the election, of course, but Gore won the popular vote by half a point."
Just for the record, neither Reagan in 1980, nor Clinton in `92, nor Bush in 2000 were ever behind by nearly seven points with one week to go. Not one of them. Yet that's the proof Morris concocts on the eve of Election Day.
Because the media aren't up to the presidential debate task, writes Cynthia Stead in the Cape Cod Times.
This election cycle had 20-odd candidates, not including rumors, winnowed down to the final two. After the two-year primary cycle, these debates were important to inform the public about the stances and temperaments of the survivors - and were hideously bungled by the Commission on Presidential Debates, a wholly owned subsidiary of the successful campaigns.
Jim Lehrer did a respectable job of herding cats in the first debate, almost getting the candidates to answer the questions actually asked instead of ones they wanted to answer. The vice presidential debate was a ratings star, but Gwen Ifill did a terrible job as moderator, unable to get questions answered. Even the ones she chose to ask, like, 'What is your greatest weakness' reeked of Entertainment Tonight.
(h/t Media Nation)
From the latest weekly survey from Pew Research Center's Project For Excellence in Journalism:
In a campaign and media environment now focused strongly on the shape of the race, one staple of weekly coverage is the attention to strategy and tactics. Coverage of swing state battles (10% of the newshole), polls (6%), and fundraising (5%), and some other related storylines accounted for about one-quarter of last week's newshole. Add in the Powell endorsement (at 6%), which was frequently discussed in terms of its political potency, and that broad theme fills almost 30% of the coverage.
And this from Politico [emphasis added]:
Reporters obsess about personalities and process, about whose staff are jerks or whether they seem like decent folks, about who has a great stump speech or is funnier in person than they come off in public, about whether Michigan is in play or off the table.
Notice what campaign reporters are not obsessed with? Issues. Or more specifically, what candidates will do once elected. Seems like that's what campaign reporters are there for; to help educate news consumers. Journalists disagree. They want to know who's funnier and who's a jerk.
This becoming almost uncomfortable to watch.
Unable, or unwilling, to acknowledge that their beloved Drudge Report has, despite increasingly desperate efforts in recent days to tangle up the Obama campaign, lost its influence this campaign, proud Beltway Drudge-ologist are sticking with their script that Matt Drudge still rules their world.
The latest to tip his hat is Time's Mark Halperin, who writes up an item on The Page that suggests, via photoshop, the all-powerful Drudge is calling the shots from the Oval Office
The news? "For the second straight day, powerful Internetist tries to tip the flow against Obama," Halperin writes.
Second day? It's more like 22nd day, but who's counting. Halperin adds, "Follows recent pattern of posting things that seem not to help Obama -- including Biden's Orlando TV interview, the closer sets of polling data and more."
This is where the playing dumb becomes unbearable. If the press wants to ignore the fact that Drudge has become a bystander during this campaign, completely unable to alter the unfolding events in any significant way, so be it. But this whole phony Beltway narrative that Drudge is impossible to predict; that he's such an iconoclast he keeps everybody guessing, is really too much to take.
Let's give it a rest, okay? For nearly ten years Drudge has been a professional Dem hater and this White House campaign has been no different as he's used his site as a transparent conveyor belt to advertise the latest from the RNC oppo department.
Press insiders like Halperin won't acknowledge the truth, but his campaign has revealed Drudge for what he is, a partisan hack who has lost his juice.
Retiring Fox News anchor Brit Hume bemoans how nasty politics has become. From today's LA Times:
"The whole general tone of politics in this country has turned so sour and so bitter and so partisan," he said, his gravelly baritone more morose than usual. "It makes news, but after a while, it's dispiriting to cover it."
Hume remains mum on what role FNC played in the "general tone of politics in this country" over the last ten years. And (naturally) the LA Times failed the raise the obvious point with him.
About posting an essay about Obama being a warrior for the "Hidden Imam."
The Times columnists acts like it's a huge deal that a Democrat appears on the verge of winning the White House, just four years after president Bush and the GOP seemed to solidify their permanent majority.
In 2004, after President Bush won re-election with expanded Republican majorities in Congress, academics, journalists and party strategists wondered whether his blend of free-market economics, cultural conservatism and hawkishness on national security might create long-lasting Republican rule.
We'd ignore the "academics" and focus on the "journalists and party strategists" part from above because what happened in 2004 is Bush was re-elected, the GOP party spin was he'd won a mandate, and the press tripped over itself making that brash announcement.
Of course, it was the thinnest "mandate" on record. (Bush's final margin was almost identical to Jimmy Carter's win over Gerald Ford in 1976.) But the media remained wildly impressed that a wartime incumbent Republican president was able to (barely) defeat a liberal from Massachusetts.
So in truth, the GOP's permanent majority was a media creation, and one that Harwood still clings to today. (And CJR agrees.)
P.S. And what was up with Harwood's lead?
It would be remarkable, in any year, for a black Democratic candidate for president to be ahead in polls one week before Election Day. Even more remarkable is that it's happening this year.
Why would it be remarkable that a "black Democrat" is ahead one week before Election Day? Polls have shown for almost the entire year that Barack Obama had a legitimate chance of winning a general election race.
We won't have read any more thin, what-if election columns that beat the same issue into the ground without providing any new insights. Like this one today by the WSJ's Gerald Seib.