The Staggering Bravery of the American Press

by wjw on November 7, 2008

We’re now finding out all sorts of things about the campaign. Fox News revealed that Sarah Palin thought that Africa was a country, that she didn’t know what countries were in NAFTA, that she refused to prepare for interviews and that she threw temper tantrums. The GOP has sent a lawyer to retrieve Palin’s clothes. Rick Sanchez confronted Joe the Plumber and showed the world that he is a looudmouthed bozo. (Big surprise there.)

But we only find any of this out after the votes are counted— or, in the case of the Rich Sanchez interview, on election day— basically, when it no longer matters.

Apparently we’re not supposed to know that Palin knows less about geography than a fifth grader until after they’ve had a chance to vote for her. We only hear from Joe the Plumber after McCain used him as an shining example in a couple hundred stump speeches.

We only find out these things because the Republicans lost. If McCain had won, the press would be kissing Palin’s Gucci-shod instep and praising her brilliant fashion sense, and no one would know of her colossal ignorance unless McCain dropped dead, Palin had to step into his place, and announced her choice for Ambassador to Africa. If McCain had won, his staffers wouldn’t be so eager to place blame for the defeat on someone other than themselves that they’re allowing reporters to actually report on the stuff they’ve all known for weeks.

Okay, fine, it was all “off the record.” But don’t tell me that seasoned political reporters don’t know how to get off-the-record before the public.

Our press is often partisan, but hardly ever brave. They love a winner. They love the access they get by being cooperative, but forget that the whole point of the access is to report what they know. They can read polls nearly as well as the Supreme Court.

I have to say that this makes me wonder what we’re not finding out about the Obama side. Obama was not nearly as popular with reporters as McCain, largely because he doesn’t talk to them when he doesn’t have to, and because his campaign was very disciplined where information control was concerned.

Obama’s ride will be smooth until he makes a mistake and shows a moment’s vulnerability. And then there will be “surprise revelations” of all the stuff the reporters have been holding back in order to maintain their access. Most of it, let’s hope, will be trivial and pointless, along the lines of W.’s pretzel attack, but it will be presented in big flaming headlines whether it matters or not.

And speaking of reporters, here’s Sarah Palin in her former job. Note that she hasn’t yet acquired the Youper accent. Where did she find it, I wonder?

robp November 7, 2008 at 5:22 am

Not that she ever gave any indication of intelligence during the campaign, but I’m actually stunned by the extent of Palin’s ignorance. I’m not stunned that the Republicans didn’t seem to care, except that it might have hurt them if the truth were discovered. It’s because of this sort of thing that a lot of us were scared until the election results were final – as William Burroughs said, “A paranoid is a man in possession of all the facts.” I did notice that Kansas, which is good at basketball but opposed to evolution, voted heavily McCain.

halojones-fan November 7, 2008 at 5:47 pm

“Obama’s ride will be smooth until he makes a mistake and shows a moment’s vulnerability.”

He’s appointed one of the guys who ran Freddie Mac into the ground as his chief of staff. Does that count?

Forrest Norvell November 7, 2008 at 10:06 pm

I’m just popping in to remind you and everyone else who comes along that there’s absolutely no reason to suddenly start believing Fox News now, just cuz they’re saying mean things about Republicans. The circular firing squad is in full effect, and as distasteful as I find Palin’s beliefs and policies (and, indeed, her existence), I have no reason to believe the Fox newsdouches won’t just parrot whatever “senior McCain aides” tell them. And neither do you.

Anonymous November 8, 2008 at 2:43 am

Was Sarah Palin saying Africa is a country more or less disturbing to you than Barrack Obama saying that he had visited fifty-seven states?

Campaigns are tiring. People of all sides say dumb things when they don’t get enough sleep, and it has nothing to do with their intelligence. What we’re seeing in these stories are the creation of a scapegoat by campaign wonks who desperately don’t want the failure finger pointed at themselves.

robp November 8, 2008 at 3:17 am

Have you read Palin’s denial referring to Africa the continent versus Africa the country? She appears to believe that both exist. And as there’s been absolutely nothing I’ve heard her say to indicate that she possesses any intelligence whatsoever, I don’t think her self-defense is just another slip of the tongue.

Of course there are Republicans disassociating themselves from the party members they’ve chosen to scapegoat, and of course Fox “News” is an oxymoron, but the selection of Palin as a running mate was a desperate move by the McCain campaign and they took the risk that her flaws would hurt more than her strengths would help. And by strengths, I refer to characteristics that would increase the likelihood of McCain winning.

The fact is, the choice of Palin was an act of pandering that may well have worked if the economy hadn’t taken a swan dive into the toilet, and it does appear that our country is rife with mainstream journalists with no more balls than Palin has brains. And a lot of voters no smarter than the worst candidates. It smacks of Sen. Roman Hruska’s defense of the Carswell Supreme Court nomination, in which the good senator conceded that Carswell was a mediocre judge, but argued that mediocre people deserve representation too.

Ian McDowell November 8, 2008 at 9:29 pm

Yeah, I caught that in Palin’s denial of the “Africa is a country” meme, too, and thought she’d rather shot herself in the foot there.

dubjay November 9, 2008 at 7:34 am

It’s not just Fox News reporting this. Other reporters are coming out saying the same things.

And yes, I know that the McCain staffers would rather blame Palin for the defeat than, say, themselves. But it also has to be pointed out that McCain’s slide in the polls began the day after the first of Palin’s interviews with Couric.

God, the Carswell nomination! Now =those= were the days!

Myles November 9, 2008 at 11:39 pm

Actually, it’s worse than that.

According to Newsweek, in demonstrating Governor Palin’s incompetence and unworthiness, these same anonymous staffers also said:

“The day of the third debate, Palin refused to go onstage with New Hampshire GOP Sen. John Sununu and Jeb Bradley, a New Hampshire congressman running for the Senate, because they were pro-choice and because Bradley opposed drilling in Alaska.”

Now, it’s fine that the Republican Party and the McCain campaign wants to turn its own smear tactics back onto itself, and spread lies as far as it wants.

All I ask it that the lies spread not be so very easily disproven.

-Sununu is 100% pro-life.
-Jeb Bradley is not now a Congressman, and was running for his old House seat, not the Senate.
-Bradley supported Alaska drilling.
-McCain didn’t, and Palin was willing to share the same stage with him

In fact, Palin was on stage with both Sununu and Bradley repeatedly throughout the race.

I suppose the McCain campaign team simply wants to fully earn its reputation for personally malicious visciousness as well as operational incompetence and stupidity.

Mission already accomplished guys, you can go home now!

dubjay November 10, 2008 at 12:16 am

Y’know, even if Sarah Palin =does= know that Africa is a continent and not a country, it’s still not going to make me want to vote for her.

Anonymous November 10, 2008 at 1:28 am

Wow. Five responses to my post and not a single one of them answered my simple question. I think that’s what’s called “meaningful”.

/back to lurking

robp November 10, 2008 at 2:17 am

Maybe she watched Fargo.

dubjay November 10, 2008 at 4:14 am

Sorry, anon. I assumed your question was rhetorical.

The answer would be “more.”

roninaz November 10, 2008 at 4:32 am

That the mass media hide things from us is well known.

FDR was not seen in a wheel chair nor was it commented on.

WJC and the Lewinski scandal were swept under the rug until Matt Drudge broke the story.

Not much was made of Obama and the “57 states” either nor his having to be corrected about what his faith was by George Stephanopolous during an interview.

Compared to the fawning adulation of the mass media over BHO this one tidbit left out regarding SP makes a very little wake.

dubjay November 11, 2008 at 4:47 am

Okay, so now we have the story that refuses to die.

A McCain campaign staffer named Michael Eisenstadt has outed himself as the person who reported that Palin believed Africa to be a country.

Except that Fox reporter Carl Cameron says that Eisenstadt wasn’t the source.

And in fact Martin Eisenstadt seems to be a hoax, the same hoaxer who, in order to fool Jonathan Stein at Mother Jones, concocted a persona, a history, the web page for a fake foreign policy institution, a video with a fake Iraqi TV station, a press release, and an organization to send out a press release.

(And even then, Stein was only fooled for a few hours.)

So it appears that the ingenous Mr Eisenstadt cleverly piggybacked his announcement onto someone else’s story, taking advantage of that person’s anonimity.

Nice piece of work.

halojones-fan November 13, 2008 at 4:52 pm

Walter, you’re really reaching at this point. “Oh, well, THE ONLY SOURCE FOR THE STORY is total bullshit, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t actually true!”

dubjay November 15, 2008 at 12:24 am

Indeed, there is bullshit somewhere. Perhaps everywhere.

Here’s the sequence.

1. McCain staffers anonymously slag Palin to reporters before the election. The story isn’t that Palin doesn’t know Africa from a hole in the ground, the story is that McCain’s people are slamming their own vice presidential candidate before the election.

2. Reporters, having promised anonimity, sit on the story. In the case of Fox News, this may have been to give their candidate a better shot at winning.

3. Carl Cameron courageously reports the story after the election, when it no longer matters. Now the story isn’t that Palin can’t tell an African witch from an Alaskan witch, it’s that reporters sat on a story that could have made a difference to the way people voted.

4. “Martin Eisenstadt” claims to have been Cameron’s source.

5. Cameron denies it.

And now the latest:

6. “Martin Eisenstadt” reveals himself to be two filmmakers, who are trying to sell a TV series about the character.

Plenty of discredit all around, methinks.

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