September 12, 2008

Core Inflation

Everybody has noticed that prices are up on pretty much everything. Sometimes those price increases show up in quantity decreases when you're in the grocery store, but for me, anyway, everything from dry cleaning to toothpaste has increased in price over the last year.

The question is "Is this inflation?"  It could be that we are seeing a one time price rise, as the increase in energy prices ripple through the economy. But, unless the government engages in stimulus (as Nixon/Burns did in 1973 in response to the embargo), there should be no inflationary spiral.  

What we should get, in that case, is a recession, as wages hold steady and prices rise. That's a reduction in real income in econspeak. In English, it means people have to buy less stuff, because prices are higher and wages are not.

It's Alive!!

I've said, for some time, that McCain can't win,  in part because he is such a terrible candidate, and would not be able to survive national scrutiny.  Without his "base" of journalists cleaning up his statements, he would have to face the cameras himself.  Incoherent, untelegenic, unable to stay on message, once the general election campaign started, he wouldn't have a chance.

That's how it looked until Steve Schmidt signed on.

 Schmidt's strategy has been to get the spotlight off  McCain, and put it somewhere, anywhere else.  Pick an incompetent, but female, energetic  and attractive,  unknown  as a running mate. Launch an ad campaign consiting almost entirely of lies attacking Obama.  Cut off press access to both candidates.  Run a media campaign, bully the teevee producers, shift the narrative away from any substances. 

And hope for a nation-wide blackout during the debates.

I still don't think it will be enough. They're on their 6th theme, and that theme is Obama's theme--change. Their advertising campaign is more of the same old politics, and eventually the chorus of "liar, liar" in the print media is going to penetrate the consciousness of Wolf's producers.

Still, they've jolted the corpse.  

There He Goes Again

McCain has this really bad habit of saying hyperbolic, obviously wrong things when pressed, like the time he said he had never supported an earmark.  

Today's example: Palin "probably knows more about energy than anybody in the United States of America."  In fact, she doesn't even know more about petroleum, never mind other energy sources, than any number of people who have spent their lives studying it. People like Daniel Yergin, to just pull a name out of the air.  

September 11, 2008

Palin's Doctrine

I missed the broadcast-- had my weekly interview show to do. And would have probably missed it anyway, because the format and the process of selecting ABC didn't seem like journalism to me. But  even in that friendly setting, it looks like she couldn't walk the very narrow "Georgia and Ukraine in NATO" line. TPM  has the detail  and the key commentary.  I.e. it is a very stupid idea to have Georgia and the Ukraine join NATO unless there is a fundamental change in what "NATO" is and what NATO membership means.

Palin seems to be dimly aware of the problem with putting a hair trigger inside what  nuclear- armed Russia regards as its sphere of influence. But she is in a bind, one which is ironically largely  of McCain's and the media's making. Because nobody has pressed him for what his "League of Democracy" means and what NATO membership would entail, she didn't have an answer to the obvious "An attack on one is an attack on all, right?" question.

Or at least  she didn't have an answer that either made sense, or reflected a standard formula, as with, say China and Taiwan. She was forced to freelance, and despite help from Charlie, just dug herself in deeper.

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.

Palin's inability to answer this question is not a result of her not remembering her talking points. There ARE no talking points that make sense in response to the question, "But doesn't that mean we risk a nuclear war if we add Georgia under the current NATO doctrine?"  So she had to make some up. And, since all she has is McCain's "Fight" and "Victory" and "Democracy" bluster to draw on,  she was in deep trouble.

Not her fault. 


Steve Benen discusses her rejection (apparently unknowingly) of the Bush Doctrine of preventative war.

One the of the inside the beltway rules McCain has broken with this selection is that you can't really pick a complete incompetent to be VP.   Just as a basic requirement of governance, you have to pick somebody who could at least plausibly take on the role. Agnew may be a counter-example to that, but even Quayle had spent 12 years in the Senate and, if he didn't know stuff like what the equivalent of Bush's sea change in American foreign policy consisted of, he had by then acquired staff who did. 

Palin is coming with nothing. No personal knowledge. No trusted adviser. No national security staffer she can rely on. No intelligence staffer. Just her, and her moose-gutting knife.  That's not the kind of VP we can believe in.


A TPM reader provides MAP detail. It is very like the EC admission process, as posited in comments, and includes the proviso that the incoming country be free of border or territorial disputes.

Sexism: A Controlled Experiment

James Fallows nails it:

Twice in the last six months we've had the spectacle of a candidate clinging to a provably false personal narrative. Each tale was meant to show something admirable and significant about the candidate's character. But in each case the press had the goods to show that the tale was too tall to be believed.

One, of course, was Hillary Clinton's "hail of bullets" account of her arrival at the airport in Bosnia.

The other is Sarah Palin's "thanks but no thanks" claim to have opposed funding for the "bridge to nowhere."

In Senator Clinton's case, the more often she repeated the story, the more relentlessly the press said the story was not true. All parts of the press did this: right, left, middle. They didn't say that there was a "controversy" about her story. They said it was false. And eventually she bowed to the inevitable and stopped telling the story any more.

His experiment:

So here are the controlled-experiment questions:
1) At any point will the right-wing press join the effort to hold Palin accountable for her false claim, as all of the press held Clinton responsible?

2)  If Palin keeps making the claim, will press critics redouble their debunking, as they did with Clinton, or taper off for fear of seeming biased or boring?

3) At any point will Palin herself -- or, far more significant, McCain -- acknowledge that there are such things as fact and fantasy, and stop making a demonstrably false claim?

There is no more stark illustration of the bias involved in this campaign. Bias, some of it sexist, against Clinton during the primaries, with a pass, some of it sexist, for Palin.  This is apparently  more pronounced  in the television coverage; there's plenty of debunking going on in print, or on the web, in the traditional media, as Fallows post demonstrates.  But it was Tweety and his friends who made Clinton back off. When will they do the same to Palin?


So I'm reading this book, Lost Country Life, about agricultural methods in medieval England. One of the things the author keeps doing is noting elements of those methods that remain in the language. For example, "by hook or by crook," but not by saw or axe, regulates how shepherds are allowed to take wood from a tree. They can knock down dead wood, but can't cut live branches, using only their hooks and their crooks in the process.

"Earmarks" are notches and holes in the ear of a sheep that document its ownership and breeding history.

September 10, 2008

McCain: Cut off all funds to Israel

Steve Benen over at Washington Monthly pulls out something that I'd missed:

[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.

Swing Voting

The difference between the parties that is most striking is the nastiness and negativity of Republicans in general, and of this redolent campaign in particular.

The contrast with the fun Democrats have, and Obama supporters in particular shows up in so many ways, like this example.


The Payoff

Halperin and Cooper, via Swampland Commenter rmrd0000:

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,

Those supposed operatives then conclude that the country is "polarized" and that actually pointing out that one set of statements is true and the other set is false would be falling into a polarizing trap.  So they effectively concede to the Republicans that reality is a matter of politics.  Some of this (see atrios' wanker of the day) is that tired balance business that has been exploited for the last eight years, but more of it has to do with a complete folding of the tent of any kind of journalistic commitment to the truth.  

On the teevee, anyway. 

I see the print people are waking up, and discovering that maybe when McCain said all those opportunistic, pandering things, it was because he was a narcissistic opportunist panderer, and when he walked to the back of the bus to sneer at the voters, he was opportunistically pandering to the boys on the bus.  They were played for saps.

In any case, now is the payoff.  There is absolutely no way, in a political world where reality plays any role, that a Republican, especially another incoherent, bellicose neo-con committed to the preservation of oligopolies and unfunded big government could win a presidential race in the wake of a Republican record of disastrous failure--a failure reflected in a 20/80 right track/wrong track assessment.

But now, because there is no trusted third party to assess the accuracy of the claims of a candidate willing to lie, baldly, without compunction, there is actually some possibility that this could happen.  These decades of Republican investment in Big Lies, in undermining media credibility, and in exploiting their inability to call a lie a lie is now paying off.

And now some of those columnists and reporters who enabled St. John McCain's position in American politics are now impotently waving their arms and shouting. 


September 9, 2008

Balancing Home and Work

Yesterday,  having noticed that Alaska's First Dude apparently spends three and four consecutive days in the field working his oil job,  I wondered who was taking care of the Palin children when he was away. Of course, there are some older teenagers in the family who are baby-sitting ages, but that doesn't seem viable as a daily thing. They'll want to go to the mall, or trap beaver or something, with their friends.  And of course there are school holidays and such, including the glorious Alaskan summer (Juneau really is beautiful in June).  This leaves aside the difficulties of a 600 mile commute, or what to do in an emergency when Dad's in the field and Mom's in Juneau (which I didn't know about, either, until today--that "home" was still Wasilla).

But now, with this revelation that out of the 570 working days (by my finger counting calculation)in those 19 months, Palin was at home drawing a per diem for 312 of them, it's now clear. For more than half that time she was at home with the kids.

And governor.

Billing the state for "lodging."

Nice work if you can get it.


Reading the NYT today (9/10/08), I see that there is an adjunct office for the governor in Anchorage (which makes a lot of sense--over 40 percent of Alaskans live around there, and it's a long way from Juneau, which also cannot be reached by any land route).  So I think it's unfair to surmise she was working from home, but rather commuting to Anchorage on those days in Wissila.  That makes it more of a latch key kid situation, which is pretty common. I was one of those kids, although we didn't lock the doors.

Ezra States the Media Conundrum

In many ways, the  blogosphere's raison d'etre is to dissect, analyze and criticize the way the traditional media works in the United States.   Someone in the distant past noticed that the "stories" in the news generally fit inside a narrative arc, much as individual episodes in a television program fit inside a broader narration,  a narration defined not just by plot, but by characters, their interactions and the other material in a show's "bible."  George Lakoff, first,  and then Jeffrey Feldman wrote about the fact that politicians were aware of the importance of this overarching narrative, and that they therefore tried to create "frames" around events of the day that was meant to influence, even control, that narrative.  Peter Daou worked out the idea of the Triangle, the need for the politicians, the traditional media, and the netroots coming together as the necessary conditions for offsetting the narratives Republicans had established using think tanks and talk radio.

I could go on. I could talk about the Froomkin Flap, when the White House wanted Dan Froomkin's  White House Watch on the Post website marginalized, and sent Jim vandeHei and John Harris to management to arrange it.  There we learned a lot about the way in which the White House managed narratives by manipulating reporters with access and selective leaking. We learned still more at the Libby trial. 

Learning more and more about this, blogospheric derision and anger directed  toward the traditional Washington Media grew and grew.  The Village simply seemed to have no interest in accuracy, but rather in some kind of 4th dimensional Broderian Balance.  The journalists, derisive in return, dismissed the dirty hippies as ignorant losers, justifying their retention of the electronic equivalent of a mailroom intern protecting them from the full force of their readers' criticism by focusing on vitriolic messages, and willfully ignoring the substantive commentary that was arising through blogospheric natural selection.

I always found this willful ignorance baffling. The arguments that bloggers like  Glenn Greenwald and digby were making were very easy to follow, and were obviously based on sound principles and clear logic.  But these arguments were dismissed without engagement.

Yesterday,  Ezra Klein pinpointed a key reason for this.   His argument is too elegantly made to summarize well, s0 I'll just excerpt a couple of paragraphs.

First, the journalist's task today is not so much as finding information as it is prioritizing and organizing it:

(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.

Second, the media cannot admit that this is now their role:

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.
This is the basis for the derisive treatment of the Village. They are obviously constructing narratives, and bending stories to fit those narratives. A narrative spreads like kudzu, and in no time everyone is writing about Al Gore's difficulty telling the truth.  But since the media can't admit that they construct these narratives, and really can't admit that they practice a kind of group-think, we're left with what Jane Hamsher has called a "titanium bubble" surrounding the Beltway.

Third, they really can't admit their role in constructing the narrative because that means they are no longer, in their eyes,  reporting the campaign. But in many ways, they are the campaign:

 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

This is another thing that drives us batshit crazy.  Michael Scherer or Jay Carney (update: or Mark Halperin) will write a story or a post in this weird passive voice, as if they are not making a decision about what is important to write about and what is not, but rather as if there were an intervention by the Angel Moroni sometime in the night that determined the universally received wisdom.  At times they seem, to us, like Kipling's bander-log, who say it must be true because we all say so.  But it is not what they are saying. It's what they are doing that matters.   

So when it is said that the campaigns are trying to "work the refs," this is not the right metaphor.  The press does not consist of putatively impartial observors, keeping both sides honest. They are, instead,  fully engaged participants in the process of determining the dominant narrative,the setters on the volleyball team. It's interesting that this participatory role is increasingly taken for granted, with roles for political operatives like Karl Rove, Markos, Mike Murphy,  James Carville and Bill Kristol as putative political commentators.  

These guys are all a far cry from David Brinkley.

Baked Alaskan


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
This was not going to get traction just on the Obama campaign's say-so.  By being patient, letting McCain and Palin repeat an obviously false and frankly unbelievable (no governor turns down earmarks), the Obama campaign has been way better served by having this takedown come from the traditional media, with just a couple of sardonically humorous assists.

What's especially sweet about this is that at this point McCain can't just dump her, the way McGovern dumped Eagleton, because he himself was pushing this nonsense.  To 40 million people, posed in front of Walter Reed Middle School, he uttered these plainly false, and absolutely ridiculous statements. 

Here's the AP factcheck:

Palin did abandon plans to build the nearly $400 million bridge from Ketchikan to an island with 50 residents and an airport. But she made her decision after the project had become an embarrassment to the state, after federal dollars for the project were pulled back and diverted to other uses in Alaska, and after she had appeared to support the bridge during her campaign for governor.

McCain and Palin together have told a broader story about the bridge that is misleading. She is portrayed as a crusader for the thrifty use of tax dollars who turned down an offer from Washington to build an expensive bridge of little value to the state.

"I told the Congress 'thanks but no thanks' for that Bridge to Nowhere," she said in her convention speech last week.

That's not what she told Alaskans when she announced a year ago that she was ordering state transportation officials to ditch the project. Her explanation then was that it would be fruitless to try to persuade Congress to come up with the money.

"It's clear that Congress has little interest in spending any more money on a bridge between Ketchikan and Gravina Island," Palin said then.

Palin indicated during her 2006 campaign for governor that she supported the bridge, but was wishy-washy about it. She told local officials that money appropriated for the bridge "should remain available for a link, an access process as we continue to evaluate the scope and just how best to just get this done."

She vowed to defend Southeast Alaska "when proposals are on the table like the bridge and not allow the spinmeisters to turn this project or any other into something that's so negative" - something that McCain was busy doing at the time, as a fierce critic of the bridge.

Even so, she called the bridge design "grandiose" during her campaign and said something more modest might be appropriate.

Palin's reputation for standing up to entrenched interests in Alaska is genuine. Her self-description as a leader who "championed reform to end the abuses of earmark spending by Congress" is harder to square with the facts.

The governor has cut back on pork-barrel project requests, but in her two years in office, Alaska has requested nearly $750 million in special federal spending, by far the largest per-capita request in the nation. And as mayor of Wasilla, Palin hired a lobbyist and traveled to Washington annually to support earmarks for the town totaling $27 million.

So now what is Charlie Gibson going to do?

September 8, 2008

Breaking: Bumiller Reports on Hugs and Kisses.

Where would we be without intrepid reporters analyzing the key issues of the day.

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.


Dependable Renegade scooped Bumiller:

Face the Nation 65 Times

This clip at TPM kicks off with Schieffer saying that McCain has broken Bob Dole's appearances record with his 65th Mavericky, outside of Washington appearance.

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.

Combatting Lies

There's a lot of outrage out there in the blogosphere, especially in comment threads, over McCain's and Palin's constant repetition of lies that have been repeatedly debunked.

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.

This is particularly true about the campaign trying to label McCain/Palin as serial liars.  One of the central goals of Republican campaigns is to reinforce the idea that all politicians are alike--they all lie, they all make promises they won't keep, and they're all phonies.  That's why they love negative advertising. If their opponent doesn't respond in kind, the negative image sticks. If the opponent flings mud back, then that reinforces the idea that they're all the same, suppressing turnout.

There would be no better week for McCain than to have it spent with Axelrod and Black exchanging charges about the other side being liars.

Only the media can call out the lies. If the media won't do it, then it won't get done.  The facts are out there.  Obama's sardonic, consistent association of McCain and Bush is a much more effective message than getting sucked into a debate about lies over earmarks. 


Obama is calling McCain out on the falseness of the Maverick brand, and on the Bridge to Nowhere:

If we're gonna nationalize

Freddie and Fannie, then shouldn't we start doing things in citizens' interests?

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?

Letter to David Carr

Carr has a bit of Republican stenography on Sarah Palin. I sent a note of protest:

Mr. Carr:

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?

Jay Ackroyd


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.