Mark Whitaker

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  • A Palin sexism allegation falls flat

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    NBC Washington Bureau Chief Mark Whitaker thinks it's sexist to say Sarah Palin isn't ready to be president:

    Still, the widespread suggestion in some of the media commentary that she simply isn't qualified enough to be considered a viable presidential candidate is ridiculous.

    For male politicians, it's always been a rule of thumb in politics and the media that once you were on a presidential ticket, you were automatically elevated onto the short list of contenders for future races. If George H.W. Bush had lost in 1988, does anyone think Dan Quayle would not have been talked about as a potential candidate for 1992, even with all the political flaws he revealed in that race? Would the media have taken John Edwards as seriously in 2008 if he hadn't been John Kerry's running mate in 2004?

    I don't buy it.

    By the end of the 1988 campaign, Quayle had served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was in the middle of his second term in the Senate. And as much as his performance during the '88 campaign was ridiculed, I don't recall him being incapable of naming a single newspaper he read. By the end of the 2004 campaign, John Edwards had served six years in the Senate, where he served on the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees. Like Quayle, Edwards wasn't stumped by a question like "What newspapers do you read?"

    Sarah Palin, on the other hand, served about 60 percent of a term as Governor of Alaska before abruptly and bizarrely quitting. And her Vice Presidential campaign made both Quayle and Edwards look positively Jeffersonian.

    Oh, and even after serving a term as Vice President, Dan Quayle was widely portrayed as an idiot. I find it amazing that Whitaker thinks that if Bush/Quayle had lost in '88, nobody would have questioned whether he was ready to be a viable candidate in 1992. Amazing. And Whitaker can't possibly be under the impression that John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign was free of media figures claiming he was a lightweight or mocking him.

    There is plenty of sexist media treatment of Sarah Palin. Arguing that she has displayed no qualifications for, or ability to function in, the highest office in the land isn't it.

    UPDATE: Here's a reminder of a media question about the qualifications of a prominent woman running for President that was in appropriate: ABC's Charlie Gibson asked Hillary Clinton if she would be a "credible" candidate were it not for her husband. I suspect the next time Gibson asks a male candidate that question will be the first. John McCain, first elected to Congress on the strength of his wife's money and connections, certainly never got a question even remotely like that.

    And the suggestion that Clinton -- a United States Senator with a grasp of policy detail that few of her harshest critics would deny -- was only a viable candidate because of her husband was a constant feature of her presidential campaign, as Whitaker's colleague Chris Matthews can remind him.

    Point being: there certainly are sexist ways in which the media can question the qualifications of women running for office. Unfortunately, Palin will likely be the target of some of them. But simply questioning the qualifications of someone who can't name a newspaper she reads doesn't fit the bill.

  • How dare they!

    Blog ››› ››› JAMISON FOSER

    NBC Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker, on President Obama's press conferences:

    "Every time a president holds a press conference there is potential for news to be made, as he did, probably to his regret, with his comments on the Gates case," Whitaker says. Still, he says, "we would feel better" if White House officials "were approaching us with the sense that they had something new to say, rather than that they just wanted to continue a dialogue with the American people. There are other ways of continuing that dialogue than taking up an hour of prime time."

    The nerve of the White House, wanting to "continue a dialogue with the American people"!

    If NBC doesn't want to air presidential press conferences, they can alway refuse to do so, and deal with the consequences. Some friendly advice, though: if they chose to go that route, they might want to come up with a better explanation than saying that they don't want to participate in a "dialogue with the American people."

    UPDATE: Greg Sargent spells it out: "for the networks to gripe that the president is making himself available for questioningtoo often is just an absurd complaint, and hardly seems like something a self-described news organization should be moaning about."

    Right. Note that it wasn't an NBC bean-counter complaining about having to carry the press conferences; it was the head of NBC's Washington Bureau -- a journalist.

  • NBC Washington bureau chief discussed McCain campaign's, but not media's, ability to "driv[e] the news cycle"*

    ››› ››› MEREDITH ADAMS

    NBC News Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker said that the controversy over Sen. Barack 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." He did not acknowledge the media's responsibility in choosing what they cover.*