Slate's Dahlia Lithwick is disappointed that there wasn't more talk of the Constitution at last week's Democratic convention:
Now maybe I just need to get out more. Maybe I live in a teensy little rarefied bubble, in which a handful of constitutional law professors, tetchy libertarians, and paranoid bloggers have been tearing their eyebrows out for the past seven years over the president's use of the "war on terror" to run his tanks over great swaths of the Constitution and much of the Bill of Rights. Maybe I overestimate American concern that their president likes to eavesdrop on their phone calls and root through their library records. Yet Jane Mayer's book The Dark Side is on the best-seller list. Sixty-one percent of Americans oppose warrantless wiretapping. And both presidential candidates have recognized Guantanamo for the international disaster it is. So clearly somebody cares about the loss of civil liberties in America. It's just that nobody wants to talk about it.
It may bear repeating that the Constitution matters. America was born of a struggle for freedom from tyranny, not lower gas prices. Of course the public should be upset about jobs migrating overseas and the rising price of health insurance. But the implication from Denver that secret government searches and indefinite detainment of U.S. citizens are minor annoyances-ranking somewhere between the neighbor's overgrown hedge and tooth decay-is insane.
Read the whole thing.
One reason politicians don't talk much about little things like the Constitution is that reporters don't ask them about such topics.
Last November, I read through the 1,500 questions that had been asked during the 17 presidential debates held up to that point, and found that only a small handful dealt with the constitution, presidential powers, torture, wiretapping, civil liberties or other similar matters:
Only one question about wiretapping. Not a single question about FISA.
There has, however, been a question about whether the Constitution should be changed to allow Arnold Schwarzenegger to be president.
Not one question about renditions. The words "habeas corpus" have not once been spoken by a debate moderator. Candidates have not been asked about telecom liability.
But there was this illuminating question, asked of a group of Republicans running for president: "Seriously, would it be good for America to have Bill Clinton back living in the White House?"
Though Republicans often claim that the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping of Americans is necessary to prevent "another 9-11," debate moderators have not once asked candidates about recent revelations that suggest the administration began its surveillance efforts long before the September 11, 2001, attacks, not in response to them.
But NBC's Brian Williams did ask the Democratic candidates what they would "go as" for Halloween.
No moderator has asked a single question of a single candidate about whether the president should be able to order the indefinite detention of an American citizen, without charging the prisoner with any crime.
But Tim Russert did ask Congressman Dennis Kucinich -- in what he felt compelled to insist was "a serious question" -- whether he has seen a UFO.
No moderator has asked a single question about whether the candidates agree with the Bush administration's rather skeptical view of congressional oversight.
But Hillary Clinton was asked, "Do you prefer diamonds or pearls?"
A full list of the relevant questions is available at the end of that November column.
There are roughly two months until Americans will choose their next president. The news media can spend that time ensuring that the candidates have to answer questions about serious matters that go to the very heart of who we are as a nation. Or reporters can continue to obsess over polls and salad greens and play armchair campaign manager. It's their choice - but the consequences will belong to all of us.
Nervous GOP convention watchers must love to see articles that begin like this:
"Republican officials say their radically curtailed convention offers a big political opportunity for the party to redeem itself on the competence issue - and for John McCain to step out of President Bush's shadow once and for all."
Was just swell.
CJR reminds us that even though the press dedicated endless hours and column inches to speculating about who McCain's VP picke would be, they all pretty much missed the story.
Apparently if Republicans write enough angry letters about a Politico piece, Politico will print the letters and make them the lead item on its website. (Who knew?)
That's exactly what Politico just did. After it published a tough Saturday column by Jim Vandehei and John Harris suggesting McCain's VP pick was an act of desperation, on Sunday the duo returned and turned over all kinds of Politico real estate to angry Republican readers, reprinting letter after letter after letter explaining why Palin was a fantastic choice.
It looks to us like a classic example of Beltway journalists being so easily spooked by conservative critics.
Ian Welsh at FDL takes a look. (But hey, there are only 15,000 j's in town, right?)
Actually the sub-head to the Post's Palin article today:
"Fellow Maverick Survived McCain's Thorough Vetting Process, Aides Say"
Our only question is, did the aides say she survived the vetting process and call her a maverick? Or did the maverick part come courtesy of Post editors. Honestly, it's hard to tell where one team ends and the other begins.
To file his reaction to the GOP convention. On Sunday, Broder was deeply disappointed that Obama's convention speech did not really represent change; that it was more of the usual partisan attacks.
Who wants to bet that "maverick" John McCain's convention address will contain a laundry list of partisan attacks and Broder will not dissent?
LGF is a right-wing blog that traffics in lots of nonsense. And Saturday was no exception. It created an online buzz within right-wing circle when, through some supposedly nifty defective work, it raised the possibility that the Obama campaign might be behind a new website spreading misinformation about McCain's new VP pick, Sarah Palin.
Lots of LGF's right-wing blog friends jumped in, linking to the site and condemning the Obama campaign for pushing dirty tricks, while LGF excitedly updated the story all day. And that's why, as part of its round-up of blog reaction to the Palin pick, the Times' political blog, The Caucus, made mention of LGF's mini-investigation: "Some conservative blogs are undergoing an investigation of their own into who exactly is behind a Web site that mischaracterizes Ms. Palin's views about gay rights."
And that was how the Times blog post ended. What the Times left unsaid was that by mid-afternoon LGF's dubious charge had already been debunked, which LGF itself sheepishly admitted in an update: "There is apparently no connection between these attack sites and the official Obama campaign."
Question: Why didn't the Times put the LFG goose chase in context and note that all the hot air turned out to be yet another righter-wing blogger charade? After all, that was the news.
Steven Benen has the round-up.