September 12, 2008
September 11, 2008
This is actually good news; the biggest problem we have had over the last 8 years is the combination of Republican lies and Republican chest pounding has prevented any public discussion of any substantive foreign policy or national security question. From the invasion and occupation of Iraq to the placement of provocative, but useless, anti-missile missiles in Europe, there has been no policy discussion.
September 10, 2008
[W]hen I was chatting this morning with a friend who works in Democratic campaign politics. We commiserated over the fact that Obama has become efficient in responding to the constant barrage of deceptive attacks from the McCain campaign, but doesn't launch deceptive attacks of his own against the McCain campaign.
My friend asked me what Atwater/Rove/Schmidt would do if they worked for Obama. What kind of attacks would they make against McCain? It got me thinking.
My first ad would probably be pretty straightforward: John McCain wants to cut off all U.S. aid to Israel.
He's referring to Holtz-Eakins using the Congressional Research Service's list of 65 billion dollars of earmarks, as Think Progress pointed out last month includes all aid to Israel, which is roughly ten percent of the total. Once this was pointed out to the McCain campaign, they backed away.
Steve's point is that this would make an attack ad similar to the McCain attack ads--false, obviously false, but with a basis in reality. As many people have pointed out, once you start explaining, you're losing. I happen to disagree with Steve on the notion that there is any basis in reality for the sex education ad, but his point is clear. It would be a dishonest ad, but it would be effective, and force McCain on the defensive.
I would approach this differently. I'd run an ad saying that the earmark veto promise is, like all other McCain promised, just a slogan, using this as an example. (Whenever an actual earmark comes up, McCain invariably says that he would keep that one. This usually happens when he poses in front of some local landmark that turns out to be the result of an earmark. )
But then pivot, and say that McCain wants to talk about bridges because he doesn't want to talk about the real things that affect people's lives. Because he doesn't care about you or your family.
MH: No. And it's another thing I get that I'm embarrassed about our profession for. She should be held more accountable for that. The "bridge to nowhere" thing is outrageous. And if you press them on that, they falter because they know they can't defend what they're saying. They're saying it on the stump, as a core part of their message. It's in their advertising. I'm not saying the press should be out to get John McCain and Sarah Palin. But if a core part of their message is something that every journalist...journalism organization in the country has looked at and says it's demonstrably false, again, we're not doing our jobs if we just treat this as one of many things that's happening.
AC: And yet, we're getting tons of e-mails from people saying that we're attacking Sarah Palin by looking at her record. So it's fascinating to see how polarized people are...
For the last two decades, the Republicans have sought to make the press irrelevant in political campaigns. First, they created the myth of the liberal media. Hammered that for so long that the media responded by setting the left boundary at The New Republic, and the boundary on the right at Michael Savage and Pat Buchanan. Hammered that message for so long that the Sunday gasbag shows responded by essentially eliminating liberal voices, putting Republican operatives up against "impartial journalists." At the same time, they got the message out to the dittoheads with constant repetition on the radio shows.
For the last eight years, the Bush administration has embarked on a concerted effort to remake reality as a political construct. The famous Suskind quote, where the official said that the Administration makes its own reality was no exaggeration. We're not just talking global warming or Iraq war propaganda. The goal was to eliminate facts from the political process.
This dovetails very nicely with the systematic denunciation of the media as a collective liberal operation. The Republicans have developed their own channels for delivering messages to their supporters, so that when they release their redefinitions of reality, it is immediately echoed in email and phone calls to the liberal media operatives,
September 9, 2008
(T)here's too much information, and so consumers largely rely on the press to arrange that information into some sort of coherent story that will allow them to understand the election. And the press assumed that role -- they didn't create some new institution, or demand that the cable channels be credentialed differently and understood as "political entertainment."They fill this new role through the methods storytellers have always used to tell stories: the repetition of certain key themes and characters, which creates continuity between one day's events and the next and helps the audience understand which parts to pay attention to. It's sort of like a TV show: If Friends had had an episode where Ross and Rachel hooked up, but never mentioned it again, that would've been weird, but their tryst wouldn't have been a big part of the story. Since they mentioned it all the time, and came back to it, and fit future events into that context, it was a big story. Similarly, if the press reports something and never mentions it again, the public knows to forget it. It's not important. If they mention it constantly -- "I voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it" -- they know it is important. The job of the media, in other words, is now to also emphasize the right parts of the story.
The press isn't allow to admit that they construct these narratives at all, and so can't transparently justify why they choose to use one and not another. Which creates mistrust and anger.
Ambinder waves this media conversation away as a "Greenwaldian debate about the duties, obligations and frustrations of the press" because he thinks of all this as media criticism. But this isn't about the press, it's about the campaign. And he's the guy we all look to for that type of coverage. His job is to report on the motivations and actions and effects of the major political players in the election (and he's among the best at it). But there is arguably no political player as important in the election as the aggregate media. But the media won't report on itself. Which means they can't really report on the campaign: They can only report on the campaign-minus-the-media, which is an impossible thing to do, and requires them to invent all sorts of explanations for how the things that they're doing are happening
The McCain camp has made her signature issue shutting down the Bridge to Nowhere. But as The New Republic put it today that's just "a naked lie." And pretty much the same thing has been written today in Newsweek, the Washington Post, the AP, the Wall Street Journal. Yesterday even Fox's Chris Wallace called out Rick Davis on it.
September 8, 2008
Elizabeth Bumiller has the goods. John McCain hugs Sarah, but kisses Cindy. Who gets introduced first? Big question. Good thing Bumiller is on the trail, following McCain's every move. Else we'd miss this critical information.
In response to the "Why Palin?" question, McCain says
"She gave money back to the taxpayers."
Well that's not true. She increased taxes on oil producers, and used that to increase the annual stipend received by Alaskan citizens.
For example, here's Mad as Hell at Swampland:
I want the Palin-McCain lies nailed and called out for what they are, lies. Obama has to do it as the media won't do it for him.
The frustration being expressed here is that they are being allowed to get away with blatant, bald, obvious lies, and nothing seems to happen to them. Having watched a campaign where Al Gore may well have lost because he was portrayed as an elitist liar, it is extremely painful to watch these people never get called on it. So there are complaints that since the media won't do it, Obama has to call out these lies.
But that would be a mistake. When atrios says they like to piss off liberals, this is part of what is going on when they brazenly lie. They want to make you mad. They want you to get into a big fight over 300 million dollar earmarks. They want you to start shouting "Liar!! Liar!!". They want to talk about pretty much anything other than the occupation, the collapse of the housing market, unemployment, falling real wages, global warming, the deficit and health care. They want this to be about trivia and personalities. So if Obama responds in-kind, he is falling into a trap.
Like how about offering 50 year fixed refi deals for people who want to lower their monthly payments? Even subprime borrowers, with some kind of IRS repayment enforcement in the event of default?
Here's today's lede:
"Before Gov. Sarah Palin came flying in from the wilds of Alaska [she came from Juneau] for the Republican convention in St. Paul, there was a lot of sniggering in media rooms and satellite trucks about her beauty queen looks and rustic hobbies, and the suggestion that she was better suited to be a calendar model for a local auto body shop than a holder of the second-highest office in the land."
You will note, as I did, that there is no mention of any media coverage in this paragraph--just a reference to a phenomenon that must be pretty much constant, sardonic and cynical comments behind the scenes. I'm sure there was sniggering at their own talent at various times in the satellite truck. Of course, you will agree that what people are saying behind the scenes has matters little. What matters is what the editorial decision-makers decide to broadcast and print.
What they decided to print and broadcast, with a very few exceptions, was stenography of the Republican image machine. You yourself join in here, offering a piece that supports Palin's contention that the media will be a force for her to contend with while providing another bit of extremely positive coverage of her "personal history," with nary an expression of dubiousness and no mention of her capability for the office of Vice President. Take this hyperbolic paragraph:
"She’s not an alien to modern media. She’s one of its archetypes: a Rachael Ray with a 4x4, who can not only make a meal in under 30 minutes but hunt and kill the main course. And while Ms. Palin probably wouldn’t look comfortable on Cosmopolitan with all that sex talk, there was more than a little Helen Gurley Brown in her confident speech on Wednesday. The fact that she is the proud parent of a child with special needs is seen as a credential, not an impediment, to performing a job that seems a little short on real duties anyway."
Tucker Bounds couldn't have said it better. She's a newfound media superstar because of her good looks and compelling personal story. But when Bounds was unable to answer a single question from Campbell Brown regarding her capability to serve as Commander in Chief (in an environment where Obama's capacity for same has been routinely questioned), the campaign threw a tantrum.
And the tantrums apparently worked. Because your coverage is right down the Republican line, gushing over the image they've creatred for Palin, while ignoring any substantive issue associated with choosing an extraordinarily unqualified candidate for naked and cynical political reasons (as Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy inadvertently confirmed when a mic stayed live a little longer than they realized). The presentation of the Republican portrait of field-dressing, moose-gnawing Sarah in your piece would be a little more excusable if the piece had not also included the demonstrably false claim that she has received negative coverage in the traditional media, as demonstrated by your need to justify this argument by referring to attitudes of people behind the scenes.
To the contrary, the traditional media have lined up as you have, with very few exceptions, to advance the Republican (to quote Noonan and Murphy) "cynical political narrative." This is underscored by the complete absence of any reference to any actual negative coverage in your column. In fact, later in the column, you again refer to reactions that took place behind the scenes:
"In the press galleries at the convention, journalists wrinkled their noses in disgust when Piper, Ms. Palin’s youngest daughter, was filmed kitty-licking her baby brother’s hair into place. But to many Americans — including some I talked to in the convention hall — that looked like family church on Sunday, evidence of good breeding and sibling regard."
I've seen no stories expressing that elitist "disgust," while there have been repeated clips shown of that heartwarming moment on television, aimed precisely at those "Americans" (an attendee at the Republican National Convention!) who find the image cute and charming.
Somehow it seems to me that a media analyst's job is not to repeat a political message, but dissect its construction, determine the degree to which it is true or false, and then look to see how those elements play. But, hey, what do I know?
Oh, and by the way, when a Republican operative asks you this:
"'Conservatives have a bad history with The New York Times,' she said, looking at my press ID, still smiling and still very friendly. 'How can I be sure that you won’t take my words and twist them to suit some agenda that you already have?'"
I suggest you point out that Keller spiking the Risen/Lichtblau illegal domestic surveillance story almost certainly won the 2004 election for Bush. So if she's worried about your credibility, tell her that management has her back, and that's what really matters.