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We've got a new "Think Again" column here called "Shallow Reporting on Deep Drilling," and here is LTC Bob on today's anniversary.

The Washington Post's Jonathan Weisman is back (along with Peter Slevin) on the trail of attacks in the presidential campaign. Their story, "McCain Camp Hits Obama On More Than One Front," again fails to take a position on whether any of the claims upon which they are reporting happen to be true.

Is it really a subjective matter as to whether Barack Obama was referring to Sarah Palin when he used the phrase "lipstick on a pig"? And is it also a subjective question whether Obama's campaign sent "a mini-army of 30 lawyers, investigators and opposition researchers" to Alaska to research dirt on Sarah Palin, as John Fund charged in The Wall Street Journal? And is the McCain campaign accurately stating Obama's position when it reports that Obama wants children "[l]earning about sex before learning to read," as McCain's recent advertisement charged? (He didn't.)

And yet, this is the lead to Weisman and Slavin's story:

Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign launched a broadside against Sen. Barack Obama yesterday, accusing him of a sexist smear, comparing his campaign to a pack of wolves on the prowl against the GOP vice presidential pick, charging that the Democratic nominee favored sex education for kindergartners, and resurrecting the comments of the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.

The story goes on for twelve paragraphs without any context for the above charges, to say nothing of calling them "lies" -- a word Weisman described yesterday as a "taboo" (the "L-Word"). Finally the article describes what the charges are based on, and while thinking people can read the context and plainly see that these are bogus attacks, the reporters can't bring themselves to say so -- they simply chronicle the events.

Do you think the answers to these questions are too tough for a Washington Post reporter, much less two of them, plus their editors, to figure out? Of course not. They just don't think truth is part of their job description. These people apparently wanted to become journalists in order to pass along politicians' lies, without challenge, in order to fool people into voting on the basis of misinformation.

Unfortunately, this attitude is clearly not limited to the news pages of the Post. Yesterday, NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker said that the controversy over Obama's "lipstick on a pig" comment "seems like a frivolous story" but it is "important to watch" because it's an example of "how good the McCain campaign is at ... driving the news cycle day after day." On MSNBC, Chris Matthews asked Joe Scarborough, "I want to ask you, what will we talk about two days from now?" Scarborough replied: "Whatever the McCain campaign wants us to talk about, because the McCain campaign is assertive."

And on CNN, John King noted that Sarah Palin has been lying about the "Bridge to Nowhere," but then said: "But why can't Barack Obama make that point stick?" -- as if it's Obama's job alone and not, you know, reporters like John King to make the truth stick.

The above-named journalists -- prominent political reporters for The Washington Post, the NBC Washington bureau chief, a visible CNN reporter -- can't even be called "refs," since they refuse to exercise any actual authority over the game being played. They're just the color commentators. And the McCain campaign needn't even bother working them. They're working themselves.

Speaking of reporters content to just do the play-by-play, on Tuesday night, CNN's Dana Bash, who is on the campaign trail with John McCain, reported that John McCain never commented on President Bush's announced withdrawal of 8,000 troops from Iraq, and that "A McCain adviser I talked to tonight admitted that talking about anything related to Bush, especially policy, especially Iraq policy, is basically a political death knell especially for John McCain right now. So [McCain] didn't mention it at all."

Hmm, would it be too impolite to ask? And what does Ms. Palin think about it?

What makes people vote Republican?

George Zornick writes: What the f*ck is Chuck Norris doing on CNN, debating a presidential election on a three-person panel with Arianna Huffington, owner of one of the most influential political websites around, and Ari Fleischer, who for better or worse is a former White House press secretary? Why on earth is Norris qualified to be there? These are just some of his gems:

Well, right now, I'm just -- I'm staying independent right now. I haven't made my final decision yet. I'm going to wait and see what happens in the next to -- you know, 50 some days. And, you know -- because the thing is, I don't see any leadership at all on either side at this point in time. And Arianna is wrong. You know, Barack Obama has no experience to lead our country in the future. And I don't even know if John McCain has it or not. And I'm leaning toward a third party.

[...]

Well, you know, the whole thing is, I was impressed with John McCain's speech, because our biggest problem today is big government, where the power isn't in the people's hands, it's in the government's hands. ... So, you know, really, if you think about it, the president is the head, but the Congress is the body. And, you know, and they -- they're the ones that dictate policy in our country. And they're the ones we've got to learn to control and figure out a way of controlling this bloated bureaucracy that we have in our country.

Was Lorenzo Lamas booked?

More details on the ABC Palin interview: It will be spread around World News, Nightline, Good Morning America, and will be the subject of a prime-time special Friday night, featuring a bio of Palin by ABC's Kate Snow, and a panel discussion moderated by George Stephanopoulos.

ABC has a tremendous amount riding on this interview -- it's on every news show they have, and Palin gets big ratings as it is, with 40 million watching her speech and 2.7 million tuning into a Fox News documentary over the weekend, their highest-rated documentary in the network's history. But more importantly, this is a vice-presidential candidate who, 54 days from the election, has never met the national press, and has no announced plans to do so after this interview.

If Gibson makes the decision to mainly throw snowballs up in Alaska -- it's gonna be a big deal.

This week on Moyers:

What happens when America's airwaves fill with hate? Bill Moyers Journal takes a tough look at the hostile industry of "Shock Jock" media with a hard-hitting examination of its effects on our nation's political discourse. The Journal traveled to Knoxville, where a recent shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church has left the pastor asking what role hateful speech from popular right-wing media personalities may have played in the tragedy. "A lot of people are hurling insults from the safety of television studios, the safety of radio studios, the safety of cyberspace" says Rev. Chris Buice, "So that's a void in our community -- the chance to be in the same room and to have these exchanges and remember the humanity of the person on the other side."

Correspondence Corner:

Name: Ken G
Hometown: Cherry Hill, NJ

I hesitate to even discuss this particular subject because frankly it is so silly that it does not deserve to be mentioned here or anywhere, ever. Unfortunately, I can't help myself.

It is bad enough that one party in this critically important election has chosen to act like an angry and spoiled little brat instead of discussing anything remotely resembling an issue. The real problem is that, even though everybody knows exactly how to treat a spoiled little brat, the media (and by "media," I mean the gamut from Fox News to NPR) refuse to do so now.

Let me put it another way. When my own child tries to make hay out of something as silly as the current "lipstick on a pig" fiasco, I don't spend a day (or a news cycle) dissecting it with her to determine whether her righteous indignation is appropriate. No. I tell her once, firmly and clearly, that she is acting like a brat, and I make sure she understands that. If she continues, she is going to quickly find out that people will stop taking her seriously. Then, if she still persists, I ignore it. To do anything else is to encourage a continuation of inappropriate and immature behavior.

Sadly, the media doesn't seem to get it. As a result, in spite of the myriad of genuinely crucial issues facing this nation and this planet, we are apparently going to select our president based on whether we believe one candidate called another a "pig."

Name: Mike Farrell
Hometown: Los Angeles

Earlier this year, this is how John McCain described Hillary Clinton's health care proposal: "I think they put some lipstick on a pig, but it's still a pig." I don't recall any Republicans crying foul at the time nor do I recall the media making an issue of it. I doubt Senator Clinton's campaign gave it a second thought. But apparently, deep down in his heart, John McCain was outraged by his own comment.

Maybe not.

Name: Robert Hawks
Hometown: Chicago

Bad News is: In moments, the Hadron Collider may destroy the earth by inadvertently creating a mini-black hole which sucks to oblivion everything and everybody in this corner of the galaxy. Good news is: at least we won't have to sit through a night in November watching the election turn on overly made-up swine.

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